Perspectives on the World of Work

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Small business management tools

Managing a business is a stressful undertaking. A 2010 study conducted by Grant Thornton International concluded that 56% of business owners felt that their stress levels were increasing. According to the Grant Thornton study, the stress experienced by business owners can be distinguished as economic, business and personal. In terms of business stress, most business owners would agree that managing employees and complying with South Africa’s labour law framework is stressful and time-consuming.

Farms are businesses, which means that these stressors, compounded by factors beyond the control of a farmer such as weather patterns, pests, diseases and market fluctuations, would bear heavily on the average South African farmer. Around 80% of commercial farms in South Africa would be defined as small and medium enterprises based on a turnover cap of R10 million per year.

The average small business in South Africa spends about 9 working hours per month on compliance. It is not an easy task to ensure that you conduct your business in a legally sound way, from a labour law perspective. Non-compliance is most certainly not an option, as the Department of Labour gears their enforcement strategy around complaints received from employees. Small business owners certainly do not want to be found foul of the law, as the ensuing fines and reputational damage could place an even heavier burden on a business. In addition to this, treating employees unfairly will not enhance their productivity nor their value addition to the business.

So where should a responsible business owner start navigating the different pieces of legislation that he or she would have to comply with? This question lead to a joint project between Business Unity SA and the CCMA, in establishing a website that allowed business owners access to all the different sets of information they would need for the employment life cycle. The CCMA & BUSA Labour Law Advice Tool for Small Business uses an intelligent decision-tree system to answer the burning questions a business owner might have. These would include matters like the drafting of contracts of employment, managing performance, addressing disciplinary problems and managing the exit of employees in a fair and equitable manner. The advice and resources available are drafted in generic terms, which means that farmers will still need to familiarise themselves with the Sectoral Determination for Farmworkers (sectoral determination 13).

The sectoral determination is a document containing all the basic conditions of employment for farmworkers, including security guards and domestic workers employed on farms. This includes matters such as hours of work, leave days and the calculation thereof, allowable deductions and a variety of other conditions. The sectoral determination governs the employment of all farmworkers. Where other laws conflict with the sectoral determination, the sectoral determination prevails. Thus, if the CCMA & BUSA webtool is used, farmers must remember that the advice contained therein must still be tested against the sectoral determination before it is implemented.

The value of the webtool lies in the fact that it is easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and it contains easily downloadable templates and resources. A business owner would not need to rely on employing a labour law or human resources specialist at great cost or rely on a consultancy firm. It caters precisely to the small business owner, and presents clear, correct advice in a logical manner. This saves time, and hopefully leads to greater compliance levels.

Managing employees is a difficult task. Managing employees in a complicated legal framework is tough. Managing employees in a complicated legal framework without the correct advice and support is an impossibility. It is very important that small business owners and farmers more specifically, know that there are tools available to help them navigate the entire spectrum of employment in a legally sound, and less complicated way.

The CCMA & BUSA webtool can be accessed at:

The Sectoral Determination 13 can be accessed at:

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