Parliamentary process
Basic Conditions of Employment Act
Labour Relations Act
Employment Equity Act
Employment Services Bill
Estimated effective date


Changes to the South African labour laws have been proposed for a long time now: the debate has been ongoing since the African National Congress (ANC) elective manifesto of 2009. As it now seems that the amendments are not far off, this update serves to outline the process so far and the anticipated outcome.

Parliamentary process

New legislation or amendments to existing legislation, such as the proposed changes to the labour laws, follow the parliamentary law-making process enshrined in the constitution. The new bill is first put before the National Assembly and – following various committee deliberations, public hearings and debate – is then voted on in the assembly. If the bill is passed, it moves to the National Council of Provinces, where it is again subject to a public participatory process, debated and then voted on by the council. The council can pass the bill, reject it or pass it with its own further proposed amendments. If the council passes the bill, it is submitted to the president for assent. If the council rejects or passes the bill with amendments, the assembly must then reconsider it and pass it again, either with or without the council's suggested amendments. After reconsideration, if the assembly passes the bill, it is submitted to the president for assent. A bill assented to by the president comes into effect either when published or on a date fixed by the president.

Basic Conditions of Employment Act

In the case of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the proposed amendment bill was passed by the National Assembly on June 20 2013 and was passed by the National Council of Provinces on November 5 2013 without any changes. The Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill has been submitted to the president for assent and will become law on a date fixed by him.

Labour Relations Act

In the case of the Labour Relations Act, the amendment bill was passed by the National Assembly on August 20 2013 and was passed by the National Council of Provinces on November 5 2013 with a handful of proposed amendments. The council's proposed changes were recently referred back to the assembly for reconsideration. The most significant of the council's proposed changes concern organisational rights, picketing rules and clarification of aspects of the new laws designed to regulate non-standard employment. The assembly is yet to formally reconsider the council's version of the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and will only do so in 2014; however, the only contentious aspect is expected to be the implications for picketing rules. Once reconsidered and passed by the assembly, with or without the council's proposed changes, the Labour Relations Amendment Bill will be submitted to the president for assent and will become law on a date fixed by him.

Employment Equity Act

In the case of the Employment Equity Act, the amendment bill was passed by the National Assembly on October 24 2013 and was referred to the National Council of Provinces. The Employment Equity Amendment Bill was considered and approved by the council on November 21 2013. As a result, it will now join the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill in submission for presidential assent before it becomes law.

Employment Services Bill

The Employment Services Bill is an entirely new piece of legislation designed, among other things, to regulate employment services and private employment agencies, which include the business of labour brokers. The Employment Services Bill was passed by the National Assembly on November 12 2013 and was subsequently referred to the National Council of Provinces for deliberation. The Employment Services Bill was considered by the council on November 18 2013 and has been referred back to the assembly's Labour Committee on the basis of two minor technical changes. This means, however, that it will not receive presidential assent until next year.

Estimated effective date

After their reconsideration by the National Assembly, the Labour Relations Amendment Bill and the Employment Services Bill will also come into effect on a date fixed by the president. Since all of the new labour laws interact with one another, it is widely expected that the president will fix the same date on which the new labour laws will all come into effect at once.

Although Parliament is now in recess and the new laws cannot be finalised this year, it is expected that the parliamentary work will be completed in 2014 and the new laws will come into effect before the national elections in May 2014 – perhaps with effect from April 1 2014. Employers should thus make the appropriatepreparations for the sweeping changes, if they have not already done so.

For further information on this topic please contact Alexander Rocher at ENSafrica by telephone (+27 31 301 9340), fax (+27 31 301 9343) or email (arocher@ens.co.za). The ENSafrica website can be accessed at www.ENSafrica.com.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.