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CASE LAW: Can an employee EXPECT a promotion?

by , 08 March 2016
Arguments can easily arise between you and an employee because of you not promoting him.

This can come about when an employee has an expectation of promotion. For example, you might have invited him to apply for a more senior position, but in the end didn't appoint him, making way for someone else.

Now, when dealing with a situation like this, there seems to be confusion around an expectation of promotion. In other words, some employees may expect a promotion as some sort of right which they are deserving of.

But this isn't really the case.

Take a look at the following case to see what I mean...


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CASE: Department of Justice v CCMA & Others (2004) 13 LAC 1.11.6

What happened in this case?

In this case, it was stated that the Labour Relations Act (LRA) does NOT provide for the 'right' to be promoted. And that unless there is some sort of agreement, or law, giving an employee that right, the whole issue around 'expecting' a promotion is merely a 'dispute of interest'.

What does this mean for you?

While the Court in the above case made it clear that an employee does not have a 'right' to be promoted, there still is a BIG right which an employer needs to uphold when it comes to employee promotions.

That 'right' has to do with FAIRNESS…

Under Section 186(2) of the LRA, an employer should be fair in the selection and promotion process towards all employees.

And so if an employee is not happy with your conduct, he can raise a case. In other words, if an employee is not happy with the fairness of your promotion process, then he can take you to the CCMA, where a dispute of right will be addressed.

So what can you learn from this case?

1. The LRA doesn't create a 'right' to be promoted;

2. But you must uphold the right of all employees to be treated with fairness and objectivity during the selection and promotion process.
CAUTION: Remember that if you've shown any unfairness in the promotion process, you'll be guilty of an unfair labour practice.

REMEMBER: Should you find yourself in a situation like this, it's highly advised to consult a legal professional.
*PS: PS: The Labour Law for Managers Handbook has hundreds of labour case laws you can refer to.

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