In the case of Chikwangu v Screening and Earthworks (2021) 30 CCMA 7.1.1 & 1BALR 17 (CCMA) it is shown that if an employee signs a settlement agreement – and accepts severance pay – he is not able to lodge an unfair dismissal dispute further down the line.

Facts Of This Unfair Dismissal Dispute

An employee, a Diesel Mechanic, reported for work after the Level 5 Lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Upon return, all artisans were called into the office one by one to discuss the financial situation of the employer.
The employer informed all employees that owing to the Covid-19 National Lockdown the business faced challenges of securing work from clients.

The employee alleged that he was unfairly dismissed during the meeting and referred a dispute to the CCMA.
In the Arbitration the employer produced a settlement agreement signed by the employee. The issue in dispute was therefore whether or not parties had entered into settlement or separation agreement to end the employment relationship, resulting in dismissal.

The CCMA Commissioner accepted that the employee had signed the settlement agreement and that he had not objected to the severance package. The terms of the agreement were clear, and the employee had not claimed that he did not understand its contents or that he had been forced to sign.

He therefore had no unfair dismissal claim.

The application regarding the unfair dismissal dispute was dismissed.

Settlement agreements and voluntary retrenchment packages are a first step before compulsory retrenchments.

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