‘Deemed’ to be an employee: Adopting the teleological interpretation of statutes

Authors Marius van Staden, Stefan van Eck

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Doctoral Candidate, University of Pretoria; Professor, Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 30 Issue 3, 2018, p. 416 – 433


Recent legislative amendments to the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 have introduced so-called ‘deemed’ provisions of employment to assist in the identification of the parties to triangular employment relationships. This article explores the significance of statutory interpretation in identifying the parties to the employment relationship and the approach of the judiciary in interpreting the term ‘deemed’. The ‘teleological model’ of statutory interpretation is described and the interpretive approach of the Labour Appeal Court is assessed against this model. Teleological interpretation requires that legislative provisions be interpreted to advance their purpose in light of constitutional values. The interpretation that best advances constitutional values must be preferred. In determining such a constitutionally appropriate meaning of the provision, the courts must also have regard to the textual, contextual, teleological, historical, and comparative elements in which the provision occurs. In a recent decision, the Labour Appeal Court failed to consider key constitutional values, the history of the legislative provision, and the comparative law dimension in which the relevant legislative provision is found. The court made little attempt to understand the historical circumstances that led to the adoption of the statutory provision and considered no comparative experience.