"The Common Law is … not what it used to be"*: Revisiting Recognition of a Constitutionally-Inspired Implied Duty of Fair Dealing in the Common Law Contract of Employment (Part 1)

Revisiting Recognition of a Constitutionally-Inspired Implied Duty of Fair Dealing in the Common Law Contract of Employment - Part 1

  • Andre Louw Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Common-law employment contract, labour legislation, good faith, fairness, constitutional development of the common law, right to fair labour practices, breach of employment contract


This piece, which is in three parts, will revisit the importation of fairness into the employment contract (outside and independent of the fairness-based provisions of our labour legislation) by a line of Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgments during the 2000s. This process culminated in the recognition of an "implied duty of fair dealing" in the common-law employment contract. This piece will discuss such developments, will argue that such an implied duty still forms part of our law (despite apparent consensus in the literature that the SCA turned its back on such earlier judgments), will critically examine some of the arguments for and against the recognition of such a duty, and will then consider the issue within the broader context of the role of good faith and fairness in our general law of contract.





Barnes 2007 ILJ (UK)
Barmes L "Common Law Implied Terms and Behavioural Standards at Work" 2007 ILJ (UK) 35-50

Benjamin 2009 ILJ
Benjamin P "Braamfontein versus Bloemfontein: The SCA and Constitutional Court's Approaches to Labour Law" 2009 ILJ 757-771

Bosch 2006 ILJ
Bosch C "The Implied Term of Trust and Confidence in South African Labour Law" 2006 ILJ 28-47
Bosch 2008 Stell LR
Bosch C "Bent Out of Shape? Critically Assessing the Application of the Right to Fair Labour Practices in Developing South African Labour Law" 2008 Stell LR 374-389

Chandran 2015 S Ac LJ
Chandran R "Fate of Trust and Confidence in Employment Contracts" 2015 S Ac LJ 31-54

Cohen 2009 ILJ
Cohen T "Implying Fairness into the Employment Contract" 2009 ILJ 2271-2295
Cohen 2010 SA Merc LJ
Cohen T "Jurisdiction over Employment Disputes – Light at the End of the Tunnel?" 2010 SA Merc LJ 417-428
Cohen 2012 Acta Juridica
Cohen T "The Relational Contract of Employment" 2012 Acta Juridica 84-101

Doorey 2005 Queen's LJ
Doorey DJ "Employer 'Bullying': Implied Duties of Fair Dealing in Canadian Employment Contracts" 2005 Queen's LJ 500-559

Du Toit 2008 SALJ
Du Toit D "Oil on Troubled Waters? The Slippery Interface between the Contract of Employment and Statutory Labour Law" 2008 SALJ 95-133
Du Toit 2010 ILJ
Du Toit D "A Common-Law Hydra Emerges from the Forum-Shopping Swamp" 2010 ILJ 21-45

Klaasen 2015 PELJ
Klaasen A "Public Litigation and the Concept of 'Deference' in Judicial Review" 2015 PELJ 1901-1929

Van Eck and Mathiba 2014 ILJ
Van Eck BPS and Mathiba MK "Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Act: Thoughts on the Jurisdictional Overlap, the Restoration of the Labour Appeal Court and the Demotion of the Supreme Court of Appeal" 2014 ILJ 863-879
Van Huyssteen, Lubbe and Reinecke Contract
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Van Jaarsveld 2007 SA Merc LJ
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Van Niekerk and Smit Law@Work
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Van Staden and Smit 2010 TSAR
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Case law

Bato Star Fishing (Pty) Ltd v Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism 2004 4 SA 490 (CC)

Boxer Superstores Mthatha v Mbenya 2007 5 SA 450 (SCA)

Chirwa v Transnet 2008 4 SA 367 (CC)

Commonwealth Bank of Australia v Barker 2014 HCA 32

Council for Scientific & Industrial Research v Fijen 1996 17 ILJ 18 (A)

Denel (Pty) Ltd v Vorster 2004 4 SA 481 (SCA)

Fedlife Assurance Ltd v Wolfaardt 2002 1 SA 49 (SCA)

Food and Allied Workers Union obo Gaoshubelwe v Pieman's Pantry (Pty) Limited 2018 5 BCLR 527 (CC)

Johnson v Unisys Ltd 2003 AC 518 (HL)

Jooste v Transnet Ltd t/a South African Airways 1995 16 ILJ 629 (LAC)

KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Authority v Wasa 2016 37 ILJ 2581 (LAC)

Lufuno Mphaphuli & Associates (Pty) Ltd v Andrews 2009 4 SA 529 (CC)

Makhanya v University of Zululand 2009 30 ILJ 1539 (SCA)

Malik v Bank of Credit and Commerce SA 1998 AC 20 (HL)

Manamela v Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs, Limpopo Province (CJHB) unreported case number 1886/2013 of 5 September 2013

Mogothle v Premier of the Northwest Province 2009 30 ILJ 605 (LC)

Mohlaka v Minister of Finance 2009 30 ILJ 622 (LC)

Murray v Minister of Defence 2009 3 SA 130 (SCA)

Nakin v MEC Department of Education, Eastern Cape Province 2008 6 SA 320 (Ck)

Old Mutual Life Assurance Co SA Ltd v Gumbi 2007 5 SA 552 (SCA)

Pretorius v Transnet Pension Fund (CC) unreported case number CCT95/17 of 25 April 2018
Ramabulana v Pilansberg Platinum Mines 2015 36 ILJ 2333 (LC)
Randwater v Stoop 2013 34 ILJ 579 (LAC)

SA Maritime Safety Authority v McKenzie 2010 3 SA 601 (SCA)

South African Football Association v Mangope 2013 34 ILJ 311 (LAC)

South African Police Service v Solidarity obo Barnard 2014 6 SA 123 (CC)

South African Revenue Services v Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration 2014 35 ILJ 656 (LAC)

Wallace v United Grain Growers 1997 3 SCR 701


Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Act of 2012

Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008

Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998

Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995

Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000


BCEA Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997
CCMA Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration
EEA Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998
ILJ Industrial Law Journal
ILJ (UK) Industrial Law Journal (United Kingdom)
LRA Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995
PAJA Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000
PELJ Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal
How to Cite
Louw, A. (2018). "The Common Law is … not what it used to be"*: Revisiting Recognition of a Constitutionally-Inspired Implied Duty of Fair Dealing in the Common Law Contract of Employment (Part 1). Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 21, 1-25. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2018/v21i0a5129