15 October 2018

In an arbitration held in September 2018, the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council (the PHSDSBC) ruled that fixed-term employment contracts between Community Health Care Workers (CHWs) and the Gauteng Health Department were concluded in breach of section 198B of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) represented the applicants who were amongst a group of approximately 9181 CHWs who have been employed in terms of fixed term contracts with the Gauteng Department of Health since 2013.  The applicants argued that they are employed by the Gauteng Department of Health as employees on an indefinite basis, as their employment on fixed term contracts could not be justified in terms of the provisions of section 198B(4) of the LRA, which specifies the circumstances allowing the employment of lower paid workers on fixed term contracts.  

The Gauteng Department of Health argued that their conclusion of fixed-term contracts with the CHWs was justified by the fact that workers are remunerated from a conditional grant given by national government.  The arbitrator found that section 3 of the LRA requires that the Act is interpreted in line with the Constitution and that sections 189B(6) and (7) were enacted to protect vulnerable workers in instances where employers attempt to offer justification for fixed-term contracts after the fact.  It was also held that the Department of Health is obliged to use funds granted by the fiscus in a manner that benefits all South Africans as a whole, such as home-based health care.   

“Prior to the outcome of the arbitration, the Gauteng Department of Health deprived the applicants of their rights and benefits as employees despite the fact that the Department knew that the applicants play a permanent and crucial role in Primary Health Care in Gauteng” said Jessica Lawrence, an attorney in charge of the Labour Unit in the Strategic Litigation Programme at LHR.  The case is significant as it represents a victory for vulnerable workers who are now deemed to be permanent employees of the Gauteng Department of Health. This ruling further strikes a blow against the casualisation of labour in South Africa.

For more information contact:

Carol Mohlala

Phone: 079 238 9826

E-mail: Carol [at] lhr [dot] org [dot] za

Website: www.lhr.org.za


Jessica Lawrence

Phone: 011 339 1960

E-mail: jessical [at] lhr [dot] org [dot] za

Website: www.lhr.org.za