Beware of your “expert” friend!

This is more for individual employees, but sometimes will also apply to employers…

We all understand the need to save money, especially in the current economic climate. We have all faced the familiar situation where we would rather do something ourselves than pay someone else to do it. We will often get advice from a relative or friend who we perceive to be an expert or at least a bit experienced. This is all good and well, BUT be careful when dealing with something that could potentially cost you a lot of money if done incorrectly.

I refer again to a post I wrote a long time ago, about contracts. I encountered this again at CCMA recently. I’ll skip the details and get to the point…

The applicant employee, as part of his argument, claimed that “the contract is invalid, because I did not sign the first two pages”.
My question to him was “Why would that make the contract invalid?”
His response was “because the law says every page must be signed for the contract to be valid”.
At this point, the Commissioner made a snickering sound and asked “what law is that?”.
Obviously, the applicant couldn’t answer the question, because there is no law that says that. He went on to explain that he had asked a family friend for advice. The friend had some experience in drafting contracts and gave him that bit of unsound advice. The applicant subsequently lost his appeal.

In a similar case about 2 years ago, I encountered the same thing. A friend had given the applicant advice, based on the provisions of his company policy. It transpired that the friend had only ever worked for that one company and had never been exposed to other employers’ policies or even statute law. He simply assumed his employer’s policies to be equivalent to the provisions of labour legislation.

So, employees and employers, be very careful when taking advice from people who are not bona fide experts in their field. They will often give advice based purely on their own limited exposure in a narrow set of circumstances.

When in doubt, contact a professional. Because prevention is cheaper than cure!