The Job Security of Employees of Financially Distressed Companies
Authors: Mieka E. Loubser and Christoph Garbers
Affiliations: BAccLLB candidate, Faculty of Law, Stellenbosch University; Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Stellenbosch University
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 33 Issue 2, 2021, p. 200 – 237
This contribution considers the legislative regulation of the job security (which boils down to preservation of employment) of employees in case of financial distress of a company. It juxtaposes the legislative regulation of four interrelated processes a company may engage in where it finds itself in financial distress, namely a voluntary internal restructuring (especially retrenchment), the transfer of the business or part of the business, business rescue and winding up. The legislative endeavour to preserve the job security of employees in all these processes is described and analysed. The discussion shows that room exists for companies to circumvent this protection and, to the extent that the protection does apply, that it remains difficult for employees to ultimately challenge the substance of decisions negatively affecting their job security. The main protection for employees in all these processes is procedural in nature and to be found in their rights to be informed of and consulted prior to decisions negatively affecting them. In this regard, business rescue is the most employee-friendly process. Participation in this process by employees, however, requires a fine balance as it may be self-defeating and lead to winding up and the permanent loss of jobs.