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You can’t prevent your employees from talking about their salaries

Lauren Salt

In their employment contracts, some employees are prohibited from talking about the details of their remuneration to any person, including colleagues. Sometimes, employers treat this as a disciplinary offence. Can they do this?

No, they can’t and any disciplinary action taken against a person because he disclosed his remuneration will most likely be declared unfair.

  • Section 78(1)(b) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, No 75 of 1997 (BCEA) provides that employees can discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with anyone, including fellow employees and employers.
  • In Schoeman & another v Samsung Electronics SA (Pty) Ltd (1997) 18 ILJ 1098 (LC), the Labour Court stated that remuneration is a term and condition of an employment contract.

  • According to section 79(2), employers can’t prevent their employees from talking about the details of their remuneration to anyone or punishing them because they did tell someone about their remuneration or they are planning to tell someone about their remuneration details.

Don’t see this section as allowing employees to discuss other employees’ remuneration. You can prohibit employees from discussing or disclosing other employees’ salary information. This means that, for example, if employee x learns what employee is being paid, employee x can’t rely on s78 and 79 to avoid disciplinary action if his conduct contravenes a workplace rule.

Lauren Salt is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie’s Johannesburg office, where she focuses on employment law and labor relations. She mainly advises clients on industrial relations, employment negotiations, labor dispute resolution and change management. She frequently conducts and presents at seminars and client training sessions on the Labour Relations Act and other related legislation.