Workplace forums in a nutshell
It is recommended that workplace forums should be formed when there are more than 100 employees. They promote the interests of the workers by means of consultation and making joint decisions. Employers must provide workplace forums with all relevant information.
The functions of workplace forums are to
- Promote the interests of all workers (not only trade union members)
- Enhance workplace efficiency
- Opportunity to consult with the employer
- Take part in decision-making
An employer must provide all the information that will allow a workplace forum to consult and make joint decisions effectively.
An employer does not have to provide information that
- Is legally privileged
- Violates any law or court order
- May harm a worker or the employer
- Is personal to a worker, unless the worker permits it and confirms this permission in writing.
General functions of workplace forum
A workplace, forum established in terms of the act
- Must seek to promote the interests of all employees in the workplace, whether or not they are trade union members
- Must seek to enhance efficiency in the workplace
- Is entitled to be consulted by the employer, with a view to reaching consensus about the matters referred to in the previous points
- Is entitled to participate in joint decision-making on matters referred to earlier and as contained in section 86 of the LRA.
It is worth bearing in mind that the formation of workplace forums in itself is not sufficient. Employers must ensure the members are adequately trained and understand their function, duties and responsibilities.
The forum should be given a written mandate and should in addition operate under a formal constitution.
Some of the more common forums are
- General workplace forum –covers most issues and areas of interest to employees
- HIV/AIDS committee – deals with issues related to HIV and AIDS
- Health and safety committee
- Training or Skills Development committee
- Employment Equity committee
Consultation with employees
Companies defined as designated employers are required to consult with employees or their representatives in terms of the Employment Equity Act and the Skills Development Act.
Consultation involves the employer getting the views of the employees before finalising decisions. In your company this is done by means of the EE committee and the Skills Development Committee. The committees should consist of
- Trade union representatives
- Employees representing designated groups
- Employees not from designated groups
- Employees representing various occupational categories
- Employees from various geographic locations
The committees will be responsible for ensuring the spirit and letter of the Acts are adhered to. They should be involved and be party to discussions in all areas such as
- The EE plan and as it relates to the objectives of the company
- Ensure implementation of the EE plan and the Workplace Skills Plan
- Maintain proper records and minutes of meetings relating to implementation of the various plans
- Ensure a copies of the EE report is displayed prominently in the workplace
- Ensure the EE report is published in the Annual Financial Report
- Discuss and make recommendations relating to changes required
- Consider all training and development needs of employees so as to ensure affirmative action strategy is adhered to