Simply put, “labour relations” involve the relationship between employees and employers, within a legal framework established by government, which is enforced by several acts. Employers rely heavily on the expertise of labour relations practitioners to effectively administrate this tripartite relationship and ensure compliance with the relevant acts. In this refresher article, we briefly look at the fundamental labour-related laws that every employer should at least know of, and that every labour practitioner should have a firm handle on.


  • Labour Relations Act (LRA)

The LRA 66 of 1995 basically regulates the organisational rights of trade unions and promotes and facilitates collective bargaining at the workplace and at sectoral level which aims to determine terms and conditions of employment and other matters of mutual interest to employers and employees. It also deals with regulation of strikes and lockouts, workplace forums and alternative dispute resolution.

  • Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)

The BCEA 75 of 1997 gives effect to the right to fair labour practices as defined by section 23(1) of the Constitution. This is done by establishing and making provision for the enforcement of basic conditions of employment and by regulating the variation of basic conditions of employment, in compliance with the determinations of the Republic as a member state of the International Labour Organisation. The provisions of this act do not apply to employees who works less than 24 hours.

  • Employment Equity Act (EEA)

The EEA 55 of 1998 aims to promote equal opportunities and fair treatment in employment by redressing and eliminating unfair discrimination in the workplace, achieving reasonable progress towards equitable representation of employees from all designated groups and protecting the rights of employees against victimisation, obstruction and undue influence.

  • Skills Development Act (SDA)

The SDA 97 of 1998 aims to provide an institutional framework to devise, regulate and implement national, sector and workplace strategies to develop and improve the skills, knowledge and competencies of the South African workforce. It basically promotes a planned and structured approach to learning, to both improve productivity and increase work prospects for employees.

  • Unemployment Insurance Act (UIA)

The UIA 63 of 2001 gives effect to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to which employers and employees must contribute to. This fund aims to provide short-term relief to workers who become unemployed or who are unable to work due to maternity, adoption, parental leave or illness. It also provides relief for dependents of deceased workers.

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)

The objective of the OHSA 85 of 1993 is to ensure a healthy and safe working environment by providing for the health and safety of people at work, including environments that involve the use of plant and machinery. It further serves to protect other people from hazards arising out of or in connection with the activities of people at work.

  • Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA)

The COIDA 130 of 1993 gives effect to the Compensation Fund, which provides for compensation for disablement caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by employees in the course of their employment, or for death resulting from such injuries or diseases. This act basically replaces the old Workmen’s Compensation Act 30 of 1941 (WSA).


The complex legal landscape of labour:

Whilst the above basic legislation generally constitutes “labour law” in South Africa, there are a wealth of other laws that can become applicable in different labour relations scenarios, varying from industry to industry. Labour law is therefore not the only and ultimate definition of rules and processes needed to manage labour relations. Especially considering the most critical variable that is ever present in all labour relationships, namely the human factor. For this reason, all labour relations practitioners registered with the South African United Employers Organisation (SA)UEO have access to a case law library, which is continuously updated, either with new, emerging cases, or with old ones that set a precedent and have become topical and relevant again. For more information, visit or contact