A critical analysis of South Africa's labour laws relating to HIV/AIDS and employment equity and its inconsistencies with international laws.
The current South African labour laws have evolved through decades of transitions. It originated from an autocratic employment relationship to the fight for worker rights and finally, to the equal rights and freedom of workers. However the rights of workers were always regulated by the idiosyncrasies and oppression of the political fabric of this country. One of the greatest contributing factors that enhanced worker confidence is the introduction of the previous Interim Constitution and the now, Final Constitution, which provided for equality for all South African citizens. All such laws have impacted intensely on the South African labour framework. Currently, we exist in a country where there are laws that ensure worker protection. On the face of it, the labour laws are clearly democratic. However, in practice, there exist many gaps in the law. This study is primarily based on identifying the areas of the labour laws where such laws do not adequately cater for the South African population and its diversities, and where it is not consistent with the International Labour standards. Major emphasis will be placed on the application of the law and the intention behind the drafters of such legislation. One area of focus is the application of the law to the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa. HIV/AIDS is seen as an epidemic that is adversely penetrating the workforce and a company's productivity. The disease itself is growing at an enormous pace and already, a small percentage of the population is affected by it. The disease inevitably leads to a drop in a company's output through the increase in employee absenteeism and deaths, and it also obligates employers to re-arrange their staff or hire new staff. Companies have been forced to change their policies and to create awareness in the workplace to adequately cater for workers who suffer from this epidemic. The laws itself have not made sufficient provision for applying itself to the growth in the percentage of AIDS employees. With a large percentage of the workforce having the disease, there has not been sufficient protection of such persons and their families. There are three stages in the HIV/AIDS cycle and the last stage weakens employees to the extent that they are unable to work. And with medical costs being as high as it is today, it won't be long before such employees lack the financial means to survive. Hence there is little protection to workers after contracting the AIDS virus. This is merely one of the areas of the HIV/AIDS crisis that requires review of the current labour laws. The labour laws are new to providing protection to workers. Inevitably, it is the responsibility of workers to protect themselves, either through saving on their own or entering into endowment or similar policies. However, with the instability in our current economic climate, it is difficult for employees to invest or to save. Employment Equity has been another area that requires development within the South African labour framework. Such equity is based on rectifying the political ravages of the past, where previously disadvantaged persons were prejudiced in various areas of the employment arena. Affirmative Action has been one area of change that many companies and corporations were forced to deal with. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has always attempted to diversify its laws to cater for the diversities of the world population. South Africa adopted many of its laws, specifically with regards to the HIV/AIDS crisis. However, considering that the labour laws are seen as a rapidly-changing area in the world economy, such areas are making it difficult for the current laws to be consistent with such changes. Emphasis is now placed on the application of the laws to such changes. This study is a very much theoretical to the extent that it identifies the areas of applicable law and the areas that require improvement or change in order to satisfy the "democracy" in a democratic country.
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