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Duties of the employer and employee

The employer-employee relationship is bilateral where both parties benefit but also have duties/obligations. The essence of the relationship is that the employee completes certain tasks or provides services to the employer, and then receives remuneration in return.

Duties: In terms of labour law, the employer has a obligation to:

  • provide and maintain a safe working environment

Each employer will, as far as is reasonably possible, provide and maintain a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees. All employees must be aware of and understand the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The employer’s duty to ensure a safe working environment may also include the obligation to protect the employee from any form of harassment. The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act obliges employers to register with the Compensation Commissioner and pay fees according to an annual assessment.

  • treat the employee fairly

This duty is established in the Constitution with the right to fair labour practices. Legislation such as the Labor Relations Act and the Employment Equity Act protect employees from unfair discrimination.

  • remunerate the employee

Duties: In terms of labour legislation, the employee has an obligation to:

  • ensure a safe working environment

Employees have the responsibility to take care of their own health and safety, comply with policies and procedures, use prescribed personal protective equipment where necessary, report potential hazards and report any incident involving potential hazards as soon as possible.

  • provide services to the employer

The main purpose of the employee is to make his/her services available to the employer. It is also the employee’s responsibility to report for duty promptly. By accepting an employment contract, the employee guarantees to do the job with the necessary skill and thoroughness. Should a person therefore be dishonest about his/her skills or qualifications, this can be seen as gross misconduct and can lead to dismissal after a disciplinary hearing.

  • execute reasonable and lawful instructions

The employee is under the control of the employer. This would amount to a serious offence and be considered gross insubordination if an instruction is refused. An instruction must be reasonable and within the scope of the employee’s duties.

  • to look after the employer’s best interests

The employment relationship is based on trust and the employee has a fiduciary obligation to always act in good faith, to be loyal and to have the employer’s best interests at heart. It also includes the employee’s duty to report any dishonest conduct by fellow employees. When an employee is not guilty of an offence but was aware of the misconduct and did not report it to the employer, the employee has violated the relationship of trust and the employer can take disciplinary action against such an employee.

The employment contract regulates the conduct of both parties and it is important that both the employer and the employee fulfill their obligations.

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