Workplace Codes of Conduct — a Review of Recent Cases
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One of the far reaching changes made to Zimbabwe's labour law system as a direct result of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) was the introduction of workplace codes of conduct. Before 1990, termination of employment under the Labour Relations Act was almost exclusively governed by ministerial regulations promulgated in 1985.1 In terms of those regulations, dismissal on notice was abolished and, save for cases where the employee consented to termination, no employment could be terminated without ministerial approval.2 However, summary suspension, for certain forms of misconduct was permitted pending an application to a labour relations officer for dismissal.3 In 1990, this rigid protection of employment was relaxed as part of the dictates of ESAP, part of whose philosophy was labour market flexibility. This relaxation came in the form of workplace codes of conduct. An undertaking or industry with a registered code of conduct was exempted from the operation of SI371 /85.4 This position, initially a matter covered only in ministerial regulations, was eventually incorporated in the Act itself in 1992.5 The current provision in the Act goes beyond merely ousting SI 371 /85 in matters regulated by a workplace code of conduct but also removes labour relations officers from intervening in any other dispute covered by a code.6 7 Zimbabwean courts have already had occasion to deal with cases involving codes of conduct and a number of legal aspects arising therefrom are worth reviewing. This review seeks to do exactly that.