Unfair Discrimination on the Ground of Family Responsibility

Author Wilhelmina Germishuys-Burchell

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, University of South Africa; BCOM LLB (UP), LLM (UNISA)
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 43 Issue 2, 2022, p. 751 – 778


At a time when dual-earner households are the norm, South African workplaces continue to be structured around the idea of family as the nuclear family and the gendered and obsolete assumption that workers come without family responsibilities. Despite the clear duty that labour legislation, including recent amendments, places on employers to accommodate employees’ efforts to balance work with family responsibilities, the failure to do so remains a prevalent form of unfair discrimination in South African workplaces today. The potential of family responsibility as a discriminatory ground remains largely unutilised. The article seeks to investigate what seems to be a reluctance by employees to interrogate family-hostile working conditions. It also considers issues relating to family responsibility discrimination and its intersection with other discriminatory grounds. In addition, the article also briefly considers international and foreign comparative developments that may provide some valuable insights into potential issues associated with family responsibility jurisprudence of relevance for South Africa.