Labour Relations Manager

Labour relations managers and officers, also known as industrial relations specialists, implement industrial labour relations programmes. When a collective bargaining agreement is up for negotiation, labour relations specialists prepare information for management to use during negotiation, which requires familiarity with economic and wage data as well as an extensive knowledge of labour law and collective bargaining trends.

Dispute resolution has become complex, involving employees, management, unions, other firms, and government agencies. Specialists involved in dispute resolution must be highly knowledgeable and experienced.

Industrial relations specialists also need to act as mediators by advising and counselling labour and management to prevent and, when necessary, resolve disputes over labour agreements or other labour relations’ issues. They may also act as arbitrators, umpires or referees, and decide disputes that bind both labour and management to specific terms and conditions of labour contracts. Labour relations specialists who work for unions, perform many of the same functions on behalf of a union and its members.

In South Africa, a human resources director usually formulates labour policy, oversees industrial labour relations, negotiates collective bargaining agreements, and coordinates grievance procedures to handle complaints resulting from disputes with employees who are members of a union. This is done either with or without the help of a labour relations manager, officer or outside specialist.

Industrial relations managers and officers also advise and collaborate with the director of human resources, other managers, and members of their staff, because all aspects of personnel policy such as wages, benefits, pensions and work practices, may be involved in drawing up a new or revised contract with a labour union.

Personal Requirements

  • speak and write clearly and effectively
  • enjoy working as part of a team
  • fair and objective
  • proficient in languages
  • able to detect problem areas and offer solutions
  • work well with all kinds of people
  • able to make friends easily
  • practical, adaptable and tactful
  • enjoy taking the lead
  • tolerant of different views
  • diplomatic, but also able to be firm

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

To practice as a labour relations manager or a labour relations consultant would normally require a great deal of experience. A degree in Law or an LLB degree is recommended or a degree with an honours in labour relations management could be followed.

Each institution has its own entry requirements.

Compulsory subjects: None but a matric with a degree pass is recommended. 

Recommended subjects: Mathematics, History, Economics 

What to Study

Degree: Appropriate courses:
Business Management - UNISA, UJ, UFH, NMU, NWU, UZ
Human Resources Management - NMU, NWU, UNISA, Monash, UJ, UFH, UV, UZ
Industrial Psychology - NWU, US, UFS, UFH, UWC, UNISA.

Diploma: Business Management - most TVET colleges, Labour Relations - VUT, Human Resources - UNISA

A diploma in Personnel Management is also obtainable via a 3-year correspondence course through the Institute of Personnel Management.


  • government departments
  • municipalities
  • mining companies
  • commerce and industry
  • self-employment, e.g. as an employment agent

Further Information

The South African Board for People Practice
Willowbrook House, 1st Floor Constantia Office Park
14th Avenue and Hendrik Potgieter Street
Weltevredenpark, Roodepoort 1715
Tel: (011) 045-5400

Labour and Employment Relations Association of South Africa
260 Basden Avenue
Lyttelton, 0176
Tel: (012) 644-8100

Getting Started

  • speak to a labour relations manager or officer about this type of career
  • develop an interest in the labour laws of the country
  • pay special attention to labour law cases in the media
  • try to get a holiday job in a human resources department of a large organisation

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

What is it all about?

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer