Does your business really need ?

More often than we would like to admit, we are confronted by clients with the scenario’s of low productivity in the office or even worse, low sales. Seemingly there is not enough work to keep employees busy.. Clients, not knowing what their options are, tell us that they are considering retrenchment or possibly closing shop, but are afraid of the costs.Orders may also pick up again in a month or two, then they will need to bring employees back after incurring the cost associated with severance packages.

There is a simpler, more cost-effective alternatives. If production or sales are down only temporarily you can impose short time, as an alternative to retrenchments, lay-offs or closing shop. Short time is when working hours are reduced and the employees are only remunerated for the hours they work. This is a way to save on labour and production costs and the expenses of running a business will also be reduced as the proverbial “lights” will not be burning when not necessary.

Short time is defined as: “a temporary reduction in the number of ordinary hours of work owing to a slackness of business in the trade, a breakdown of plant, machinery or equipment or a breakdown or threatened breakdown of buildings”

It is very important to note that this may not be implemented unilaterally and the correct procedure must be followed, failure which can cause tremendous harm and possibly end up costing you more than you originally saved.

Should employees refuse to accept the proposal of short time after you consulted with them (and the union(s) – if applicable) and explained the reasons,, the employer may embark on a possible retrenchment process and then implement short time as an alternative to retrenchment, thus no longer requiring the permission or consent of the employees as it is deemed an alternative to dismissal.

The above principle (as well as, possible retrenchment, strikes and lock-outs and unilateral change to terms and conditions) was confirmed in the judgement of Independent Commercial Hospitality and Allied Workers Union and others v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and others (2015) 24 LC.

It is very important to note that different industries, like metal and engineering, retail, private security etc., often have different rules and time allowances with regards to short time, which means what is allowed in one industry is not necessarily the same in another. It is therefore important to make sure of the requirements and procedures before embarking on this process.

Short time can become quite tricky quite quickly if you do not know what to do and the steps to follow which can only be used in certain instances. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution and it is therefore advisable to contact SA Labour Dynamics for assistance for the desired outcome.