Freedom of Association Checklist

When you work in human resources, it's crucial to understand the application of labor law and to keep yourself informed of important aspects such as the right to freedom of association and how it applies in the workplace.

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What Is Freedom of Association?

Freedom of association is an essential human right decreed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Section 18 of the South African Constitution, it allows workers to choose whom to associate and disassociate with. Section 23 of the Constitution further details and emphasizes those rights within the workplace by stating that every person has the right to impartial labor practices, and all employees have the right to form and join a trade union.

Freedom of Association in the Workplace

Freedom of association frequently comes up in relation to trade unions and employee associations. Courts have maintained that employees have a right to connect with fellow colleagues to pursue mutual workplace goals, which include a right to collective bargaining.


What Types of Activities Are Protected by Freedom of Association

  • Assembling with others to form associations. In a previous era, this was not allowed and seen as a threat to the government, and with this act, it can no longer be prevented or be seen as illegal.
  • Meeting with others to pursue a charter would mean the government has no jurisdiction to stop a group's activities that pertain to their constitutional rights and freedoms.
  • Employees must be given the freedom to collate with other people to bargain, negotiate and match the strength of more powerful groups of people. All workers have every right to enjoy their own liberty of freedom of association irrespective of the type of contract by which the employment relationship has been formalized.


Consequences of Denying Workers Freedom of Association

The renunciation of the right of workers within any sector to set up trade unions can be viewed as discrimination and not treating staff fairly and in accordance with the law. Article 2 of Convention No. 87 provides that workers and employers shall have the right to establish and to join organizations of their own choosing. So, by standing in the way and enforcing rules that contravene people's freedoms and rights could lead to reputational damage and even legal action.

To ensure you are compliant and keeping to the legislation provided by the constitution, download this Freedom of Association Checklist today.

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