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Don't make these common labour blunders when promoting your employees

by , 07 March 2013
All eyes are on the Vatican this month as cardinals flood the 'Holy City' to promote one of their fellows to the highest office in the church. While the appointment is sure to make at least one cardinal happy, many will walk away licking their wounds, complaining of unfair practices. And it's not just like this in the Vatican. If you promote an employee to a higher position, you'll step on other employees' toes and could even face the CCMA for unfair labour practices. Here's how to ensure this doesn't happen to your company...

There are many problems that arise in the workplace when promoting an employee to a new or existing post in your company.

After all, 'most employees are of the opinion that because they are already employed by the employer, or because they are already employed in that particular department, or have a number of years' experience in the post just below the vacant post, that they are entitled to be promoted, or that they have an entitlement to receive preference above any other applicants,' explains The South African Labour Guide.

But that couldn't be further from the truth.

Just because they've worked in your company 'forever' doesn't mean they're legally entitled to a promotion.

But be warned, says the Labour Law for Managers, this doesn't mean you can't be accused of unfair labour practices from an employee that doesn't get a promotion.

What must your employee prove when she accuses you of an unfair labour practice?

'The onus is on your employee to prove your decision not to appoint her is an unfair labour practice,' explains the Labour Law for Managers.

To do that, she'll have to convince the arbitrator that your decision is unfair on one or both of the following grounds:

  • The reasons for not appointing her were unfair (this is known as 'substantive fairness'). This will be the case if, for example, you were influenced by factors that have nothing to do with the person's suitability for the position; or
  • You didn't follow a fair procedure in making your decision (procedural fairness). For example, you didn't even grant her an interview, you failed to comply with your own appointment procedures or you failed to consistently apply the selection criteria.

When it comes to unfair labour practices and promotion, the latter is usually your biggest risk. That's why it's imperative you follow your company's promotion procedures, says the Labour Law for Managers.

So if your procedures require you try to fill vacancies by promoting employees internally before looking outside the organisation, adhere to that and recruit externally only if you're satisfied that there's no suitable internal candidate available.

By making sure you do that, you'll be able to safeguard your company from unnecessary time and money spent defending an unfair labour practice case at the CCMA.

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