n SA Mercantile Law Journal = SA Tydskrif vir Handelsreg - Failure to obey employer's lawful and reasonable instruction : operational perspective in the case of a dismissal : : case note

Volume 25, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1015-0099
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2185



The duties of an employee at common law include acting in good faith, putting one's services (labour potential) and time at the employer's disposal, and following all the latter's lawful and reasonable instructions. Although it might be easy to determine whether the employer's instruction to an employee is lawful, it might still be difficult, depending on the circumstances of each case, to determine whether the instruction is reasonable.

Employees who fail to obey lawful and reasonable instructions of their employers may be charged with 'insubordination', which if serious can even lead to a dismissal. Insubordination may result from a deliberate disregard of authority without valid reasons. Thus, what might look like an act of insubordination might actually not be, should the employee's reasons for not obeying the employer's instruction show that the employee's conduct is justifiable, considering the circumstances that prevailed at the time the instruction was issued.

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