New Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court Rules Gazetted

May 14, 2024 | News

On 03 May 2024, the Acting Judge President’s office for the Labour and Labour Appeal Courts announced the gazetting of revised rules. These rules have yet to take effect; a formal notice will later confirm their commencement date. Significant revisions are proposed to enhance procedural efficiency and adapt to modern requirements:

  1. Festive Period Operations: The definition of a ‘day’ now excludes the period from December 16 to January 15, effectively pausing court proceedings during the festive season.
  2. Electronic Service and Filing: The new rules facilitate the use of email for the service and filing of documents, transitioning away from the traditional fax and personal delivery methods.
  3. Streamlined Review Applications: A specific clause aims to shorten the length of pleadings in review applications, penalising irrelevant submissions with cost orders.
  4. Restraints of Trade: A detailed procedure for urgent interdicts concerning restraints of trade is introduced, requiring strict adherence for the enrolment of such applications.
  5. Handling Exceptions and Striking Out Pleadings: New provisions are outlined for raising exceptions and striking out irrelevant or scandalous averments, also addressing delays in delivering pleadings.
  6. Virtual Hearings: Building on pandemic-era practices, the rules now formally accommodate virtual hearings, subject to a judge’s discretion based on the case’s nature and public interest.
  7. Media Access: Media can now capture images or video shortly before and after proceedings, during breaks, or when no testimony is presented, subject to court approval.
  8. Amendments to Pleadings: Amendments follow a notification process, with objections required within 10 days, or the changes are deemed accepted.
  9. Expedited Handling of Large Dismissal Cases: Cases involving the dismissal of ten or more employees seeking reinstatement are to receive immediate judicial management for quicker resolution.
  10. Enhanced Case Management: The registrar must now forward cases deemed ready for trial to a judge for final certification and scheduling directives.
  11. Addressing Irregular Proceedings: New rules provide for the challenging of irregular procedural steps by opponents, enhancing fairness and adherence to judicial standards.
  12. Contempt of Court: Strengthened rules now allow for ex parte applications to address contempt, holding individuals accountable for disrespect towards the court.
  13. Judgment and Order Adjustments: Provisions for rescinding or varying judgments or orders due to errors or oversights, ensuring corrective measures within 15 days of recognition.
  14. Responses and Counterclaims: Guidelines are specified for replying to responses and counterclaims, clarifying the requirements and timelines.

These amendments aim to align the Labour Court’s operations more closely with those of the High Court, potentially complicating proceedings for laypersons and increasing reliance on legal representation. The ultimate impact on the court’s workload and case backlog will become clear in time.

Analysis by

David Short | Director and Ciara Pillay | Candidate Attorney