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Worker Rights: What You need to Know

by Morgan Bolnick

Knowledge is power – especially when it comes to the workplace. Life can’t be moonshine and roses all the time and when things go pear-shaped, you need to know the laws in place to help you out of an uncomfortable situation.

What’s work got to do with it?

Work, work, work, work, work. No, not like the Rihanna song. Like real life. School won’t last forever and then you’ll be off into the big, wide world of work. Employment – and lack thereof – has always been a hot topic in our country, as is the subject of our human rights associated with it. No country can function without its workforce, so its workforce needs to be protected, right?  We celebrate Human Rights Day every year, so it must be quite important. If you’ve started thinking about entering the South African workforce, there are some things that you need to know about your rights in that area. You will spend 80% of your day in some sort of work environment – that’s a lot of time – and you want to make sure that you know the ins and outs to make it as pleasant an experience as possible.

Worker rights: What are they?

Workers’ rights are a group of legal and human rights relating to labour relations  between  workers and employers, codified in national and international labour law. In general, these rights influence working conditions in relation to employment. One of the most central is the right to freedom of association, otherwise known as the right to organize. Workers organized in trade unions exercise the right to collective bargaining to improve working conditions.

In other words:

  1.    Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2.   Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3.   Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4.   Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his/her interests.
  5.   Everyone has a right to rest and leisure, including reasonable working hours and holidays with pay.

Along with these, other core standards of labour are:

  • Freedom of association: workers are able to join trade unions that are independent of government and employer influence
  • The prohibition of all forms of forced labour includes security from prison labour and slavery, and prevents workers from being forced to work under duress
  • Elimination of the worst forms of child labour,  implementing a minimum working age and certain working condition requirements for children
  • Non-discrimination in employment: equal pay for equal work

Hold up. Now that you understand the background of your rights as it relates to work, we have to explore the next step: the recruitment process.

Recruitment: is there a catch?

So you’ve identified a job you’d like to apply for? As anyone who’s been in the business of job hunting will tell you, it can be a long process, but don’t lose heart. An employer wants to be certain that they’re choosing the right candidate. While the process may differ from company to company, the recruitment process will look something like this: 

Stage one: Initial phone contact

If a company likes what they see, someone will contact you to arrange an interview to find out more about the person behind the CV.

Stage two: first-round interviews

Some face-to-face interviews will be conducted in front of an entire panel of people, sometimes with only one person, depending on the size of the company and the position applied for. This interview helps them to understand your career interests, educational background, skills, competencies and experience, as well as what motivates you to succeed at work.

Stage three: assessments

Depending on what you’re applying for, you may be expected to complete a psychometric assessment which allows the hiring company to better understand your motivation and how you behave at work.

Stage four: second-round interviews

If you’ve been called for a second interview, they like you! Here they will invite you into what working with them looks like and if you think you would enjoy it. It’s more of telling you about them.

Stage five: reference checks

This is where some get nervous. But if you’re a first time worker, you probably don’t have many, or any, references. But just so you know: companies contact your previous employers to find out about your previous work performance, your skills and behaviour at work, so it’s always a good idea to do your best at any job, even if you don’t particularly enjoy it.

Final stage: decision and offer

So you’ve reached the end of the road at last! If they’ve selected you as their ideal choice, they will contact you with a job offer, which includes a salary outline, which you may either accept or reject.

Here’s what to expect from an employment contract (the who, what, where, when and why of your job):

  • Names and addresses of all parties involved
  • Description of business
  • Clearly defined job position and role
  • Company-specific requirements and/or protections
  • Length of job and duration of schedule/work hours – a standard working week is 40 hours and all overtime must be paid for.
  • Pay, compensation & benefits
  • Employee classification category
  • Privacy policies
  • Performance requirements
  • Tasks & duties
  • Terms of relationship
  • Termination guidelines – most contract stipulate a 4 week notice period if you wish to resign
  • Signatures and dates

Make sure you have adequate time to read through everything carefully before signing.

EduConnect 2Cents

Wow, that’s a lot of information to take in! But never fear. All experiences can teach you more about yourself and this can be used going forward. It’s important to remember that while in the process of recruitment and working, you are treated with fairness and dignity.

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