The Constitutional Court has ruled that where a labour broker places an employee on assignment with a company, the company must assume all legal obligations relating to that employee after a brief initial period. Previously, the labour broker was solely, mainly, partly or not at all answerable for the employee, depending on the situation. Judging by the jubilant reactions of the trade unions that were plaintiffs in the case, the ruling will be the end of labour broking in SA. The right-thinking observer, ever inclined to suspicion when unions are jubilant, wonders what it means in practice. Many people are puzzled as to why a company would use a labour broker. A bank, for example, might feel that its core business is providing financial services, as opposed to cleaning office windows, guarding branches, transporting cash, providing specialised computer training, managing queues or staffing during business peaks.

In such cases, the bank could elect to outsource those incidental...

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