DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PREGNANT WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE

Employees are often faced with a difficult situation in the workplace when falling pregnant. Many establishments react unfavourably towards female employees that fall pregnant. These employees are often discriminated against in various direct and indirect manners. There are, however, clear provisions that protect employees in these situations which employees should familiarise themselves with.

There are different ways in which employees can be discriminated against in the workplace due to the fact that the employee has fallen pregnant. These forms of discrimination have different degrees of disadvantage towards the employee. It can range from having her contract terminated, being treated badly, being verbally abused or being ridiculed because she has fallen pregnant.

As a point of departure, it is stated in Section 9(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa[1], that nobody may be discriminated against based on the fact that they are pregnant. It is therefore a constitutional right for an employee not to be discriminated against in any form or manner because of her pregnancy. This right is further confirmed by Paragraph 4.2 of the Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy[2].

The most severe form of discrimination against an employee is the dismissal of an employee due to the fact that she has fallen pregnant. The Labour Relations Act [3] specifically mentions that an employer is not entitled to dismiss an employee due to her pregnancy. However, there are various other ways of discriminating against a pregnant employee that should be noted.

Employees should be mindful of more subtle forms of discrimination, such as contracts not being renewed when it was earlier apparent that it would have been, or where a promotion is not granted to an employee purely because she has fallen pregnant at a certain time. Whenever an employee can prove that there was a direct link between any disadvantage and her pregnancy, she will most likely be entitled to the appropriate remedy. Employees are further entitled to a certain amount of unpaid maternity leave and will be entitled to insist on it.

In the event of an employee being dismissed due to her pregnancy, or where it is clear that an employee was discriminated against in any way for this reason, there are various remedies for the employee to choose from. It is always a good idea to resolve the issue without taking legal action, as this will be an expensive exercise and will most likely cause a relatively uncomfortable atmosphere between an employee and an employer. An informal arrangement between the employer and employee is therefore recommended, yet it is not always a practical solution. However, if no other option is available to the employee, she will always have the option to approach the CCMA as well as Labour Courts to prove that she was discriminated against due to her pregnancy. She will then be in a position to request the appropriate remedy.

In conclusion, female employees should be mindful of possible forms of discrimination against them as it is clearly prohibited. Direct and indirect forms of discrimination exist but aren’t always easy to identify. However, if identified and proven, such discrimination will not be allowed and must subsequently be corrected.

Bibliography

Acts:

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy

Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995

[1] Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

[2] Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy

[3] Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

PUBLIC NUISANCES: LEGAL RIGHTS IN TERMS OF LEGISLATION

Persons who commit disruptive acts of unacceptable behaviour in public places may be warned, arrested and subsequently prosecuted by the authorities. The offender shall be liable for a fine, imprisonment or both upon conviction. How is this enforcement of our rights achieved by an ordinary citizen?

A public nuisance is a criminal wrong; it is an act or omission that obstructs, damages, or inconveniences the rights of the community. The term public nuisance covers a wide variety of minor crimes that threaten the health, morals, safety, comfort, convenience or welfare of a community.[1]

Legislation offers relief in this respect, in specific by-laws of local Municipalities. A by-law is a law that is passed by the Council of a municipality to regulate the affairs and the services it provides within its area of jurisdiction[2]. A municipality derives the powers to pass a by-law from the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

With regards to Public Nuisances one would look to By-law Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances, 2007[3]. The main body of this by-law lists certain acts that are deemed prohibited behaviour and are therewith criminalised. Various acts including begging, using abusive or threatening language, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causing a disturbance by shouting, screaming or making any other loud or persistent noise or sound, including amplified noise or sound are listed therein.[4]

Should anyone and his conduct fall within this definition and perform any or multiple prohibited acts of public nuisance, the authorities are to be alerted immediately. The authorities have the power to instruct the offender to immediately cease the offending behaviour, failing which he will be guilty of an offence.

Section 23 states that any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this by-law or disobeys any instruction by the authorities enforcing this by-law, shall be guilty of an offence. This offender shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

It is therefore evident that by identifying certain acts of unacceptable, aggressive, threatening, abusive or obstructive behaviour of persons in public the offender may be ordered to immediately cease such offending conduct or be arrested for not complying with any order to do so.

Reference List:

  1. http://openbylaws.org.za/za/by-law/cape-town/2007/streets-public-places-noise-nuisances/
  1. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Public Nuisance
  1. http://openbylaws.org.za/
  1. https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/bylaws/Pages/Home.aspx

[1] http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Public Nuisance

[2] https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/bylaws/Pages/Home.aspx

[3] http://openbylaws.org.za/za/by-law/cape-town/2007/streets-public-places-noise-nuisances/

[4] Section 2 By-law Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances, 2007

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

PAY YOUR LEVIES, OR ELSE…

Dear Mr Lawyer

I am the owner of a sectional title, and I have paid my levies every month as required, until the water started seeping through the ceiling of my enclosed balcony into my section when it rains. The leak was clearly emanating from a defect in the common property. I asked the body corporate on numerous occasions to repair the defect, yet after four months of writing letters and sending emails the body corporate still has not done anything to honour this simple request. As a frustrated owner I resorted to desperate measures and employed a contractor to repair the property defect. I settled the bill myself.

May I withhold my levies for a period to set off the money that is owed to me by the body corporate?

Dear Mr Owner

Although this action may sound reasonable, the right to stop paying or to set off a debt against levies is not legally justified and owners are not, under any circumstances, entitled to simply withhold levies.

There is no provision in the Sectional Titles Act 95 of 1986 or the rules that gives an owner the right to withhold levy payments. Even if an owner incurs expense in performing an emergency repair to the common property, and believes that the body corporate owes him money, the owner may only set off the debt against the levies once it becomes liquid.

An amount can only be liquid once it has been agreed upon. An owner cannot set off the amount he believes he is entitled to deduct. The trustees, judge or arbitrator must have confirmed the amount.

If Mr Owner does withhold his levies without the amount being liquid, he is subject to the following sanctions in terms of the prescribed rules:

  • Firstly, the trustees are entitled to charge interest on arrear amounts at a rate determined by them, and so the defaulting owner may receive a larger account, due to the interest on his arrears, than if he had paid his levies.
  • What is more, The Sectional Titles Act imposes a positive obligation on trustees to recover levies from defaulting owners. Not only does the Act empower them to charge interest, the scheme attorneys will most likely issue summons against the defaulter for all costs that the Body Corporate may incur in recovering any arrears.
  • Secondly, the prescribed management rules provide that, except in the case of special and unanimous resolutions, an owner is not entitled to vote if any contributions payable by him in respect of his section have not been duly paid. Therefore, an owner who withholds his levies is unable to vote for ordinary resolutions in respect of the section that he is withholding levies on.

Mr Lawyer, how does an owner deal with a situation where he believes the body corporate is liable for payment?

A dispute must be declared with the Body Corporate by written notice of the dispute or query to the trustees. The trustees or Body Corporate then have 14 days from receipt to resolve the dispute. During this period, the parties should meet to try and resolve the dispute. If there is no resolution after the 14-day period, either party may demand that the dispute be referred to arbitration. The arbitrator must make his/her recommendations in settlement of the dispute within 7 days from the date of commencement of the dispute. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding and may be made an order of the High Court.

It is clear that prescribed processes are in place according to which disputes and related issues can be settled. Not only will this ensure that you act within the legal guidelines, but it will also eliminate unnecessary frustration.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MOET EK ‘N TESTAMENT HÊ?

‘n Ma se begeerte dat haar dogter haar verloofring erf, sal dalk nie bewaarheid word indien sy nie ‘n geldige, skriftelike testament nalaat nie, aangesien haar boedel dan in terme van die Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging No 81 van 1987 verdeel sal word.

‘n Testament sal jou die gemoedsrus gee dat jou bates sover moontlik volgens jou wense verdeel word en moet weerspieël presies hoe jou bates na jou dood hanteer moet word. Dit mag egter nie contra bonos mores (teen die goeie sedes) wees of neerkom op “regerend uit die graf” nie.

Daar is ‘n aantal wetlike vereistes waaraan ‘n geldige testament moet voldoen. Indien die testament nie aan al hierdie vereistes voldoen nie, kan daar bevind word dat dit ongeldig is en sal jou boedel dan in terme van die Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging van 1987 beredder word. Dit is daarom van die uiterste belang dat iemand met die nodige gespesialiseerde vaardighede en kennis jou bystaan met die opstel van jou testament.

‘n Testament moet ook gereeld hersien en opgedateer word om aan te pas by jou veranderende lewensomstandighede, byvoorbeeld nadat jy in die huwelik getree het of kinders gebore is. Artikel 2B van die Wet op Testamente no 7 van 1953 (soos gewysig deur die Erfreg Wet 43 van 1992) handel spesifiek oor ‘n verandering in huwelikstatus deur middel van ‘n egskeiding en lui soos volg:

“Indien iemand te sterwe kom binne drie maande nadat sy huwelik deur ‘n egskeiding of nietigverklaring deur ‘n bevoegde hof ontbind is en daardie persoon voor die datum van sodanige ontbinding ‘n testament verly het, word uitvoering aan daardie Testament gegee op dieselfde wyse waarop daaraan uitvoering gegee sou word indien sy voormalige gade voor die datum van die betrokke ontbinding oorlede is, tensy uit die Testament blyk dat die erflater ondanks die ontbinding van sy huwelik bedoel het om sy voormalige gade te bevoordeel.”

Hierdie klousule kan deur middel van die volgende voorbeeld verduidelik word: A en B se huwelik ontbind deur ‘n egskeiding en B sterf binne drie maande vanaf die datum van die egskeiding. B se testament is voor die egskeiding opgestel. Tensy B se testament spesifiek aandui dat A bevoordeel moet word uit hoofde van B se boedel ten spyte van die egskeiding, sal B se boedel verdeel word asof A gesterf het voordat hulle geskei het. A sal dus nie van B se boedel erf nie. Sou B egter sterf nadat meer as drie maande verloop het na die egskeiding en B se testament, wat A bevoordeel, is onveranderd, sal dit gesien word asof dit B se bedoeling was om vir A te bevoordeel, ten spyte van die egskeiding.

‘n Persoon wat hertrou, moet verseker dat die nodige veranderinge aan sy/haar testament aangebring word, andersins kan dit ernstige gevolge vir die “nuwe” gade inhou, veral in gevalle waar die testament steeds die eggenoot uit die vorige huwelik bevoordeel.

Wanneer daar minderjarige kinders ter sprake is, is dit raadsaam om voldoende voorsiening in jou testament te maak vir hul lewenskoste en opvoeding. Dit kan gedoen word deur ‘n testamentêre trust te skep waarvan die minderjarige kinders begunstigdes is.

Om oor ‘n mens se afsterwe te dink en praat, is nie maklik nie. Deur egter ‘n geldige, duidelike en ondubbelsinnige testament na te laat, kan onaangename familievetes verhoed word. Dit is beslis die tyd en moeite werd om ‘n geldige testament op te stel.

Verwysings:

Drafting of Wills 2013 – LEAD

Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging 81/1987

Wet op Testamente 7/1953

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies. (E&OE)