Employees often have policies in place to maintain certain standards and order in the workplace, these policies are developed at the discretion of the employer, and may be amended from time to time. It is important to note that, in the event that a policy is part of a contract of employment, it forms part of such employee’s terms and conditions of employment which was accepted at the time of employment.
Should an employer want to change policies that form part of the employee’s terms and conditions of employment, the affected employees have to be consulted with formally and given the opportunity to make representations regarding the proposed change, especially if it will have an impact on their remuneration and/or benefits.
Policies that does not form part of the employee’s contract of employment, can be amended from time to time by the employer without any intensive consultation with employees. Employers should ensure that all policies are accessible to employees, and that any amendments to these policies are communicated to all employees. It remains the employees’ duty to familiarise themselves with the contents of all policies.
In Staff Association for the Manufacturing and Related Industries (SAMRI) v Toyota of SA Motors (Pty) Ltd 1997 (18) ILJ 374 (LC) the following was determined:
“Any variation to an employee’s salary, irrespective of whether it is increased or decreased, amounts to a change in the basic conditions of employment and cannot be affected unilaterally. The use of a motor vehicle by an employee granted by an employer for the work rendered is a form of remuneration. It is in fact part of the employee’s salary albeit on a somewhat different basis. One can imagine that the motor vehicle benefit scheme by the Respondent was and still is a serious consideration for several prospective employees when deciding whether or not to take up employment through the Respondent Company. Any changes to this benefit have the result that the employee’s salary or remuneration package is potentially or in fact affected and therefore constitutes a change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment.”
In a nutshell, terms and conditions, including policies that form part of the contract of employment, cannot be changed unilaterally and without consultation and agreement.
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