Our people

Impahla’s success is entirely dependent on the effort and hard work of our employees. In return, many of our employees regard Impahla as their home away from home. Together, we are rebuilding the local clothing industry, by garment, by production line and by brand development.

Employee awards

Every month we reward those employees who show their dedication to the company and go the extra mile. This can be in terms of working extra hard to meet a client deadline, exceeding their production targets or going out of their way to make Impahla a better company to work for and do business with.

Outstanding employees are nominated for the award by supervisors, production managers and senior leadership on a monthly basis. A list is generated and motivations given to the directors who make the final decision. The winners are announced during staff meetings and each winner receives a shopping voucher to spend as they wish.

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Employee engagement

Having doubled the number of employees over the previous two years, the Impahla team reduced slightly this year through natural attrition.

All new employees are given a four-week probation period before we offer them permanent employment. We do not make use of relief or temporary resources and therefore all our staff are permanent employees.

Union representation

All weekly waged employees are members of the South African Clothing and Textiles Worker Union (SACTWU). We encourage and help our employees to join SATCWU so that they can access additional benefits offered by the union.

Considering the generally good relationship existing between management and employees, Impahla’s relationship with SACTWU is a positive one. Employee issues relate more to employee health and welfare. In this regard, the union has been a useful partner in campaigning against HIV/Aids, TB and substance abuse. Their ongoing HIV/Aids voluntary testing and counseling includes poster campaigns and information sessions at our operations.


No strikes or industrial actions occurred in the period under review, and no days were lost due to union action. With 85% of the workforce unionised (2013/14: 89%), the absence of industrial action suggests a generally high level of employee satisfaction.

Employee benefits

From the day an employee joins Impahla, he or she has access to all the basic worker benefits afforded to them by law. An employee will then gain access to the following benefits once he or she becomes a SACTWU member and successfully completes our four-week to three-month long probation period:

  • Provident fund where the company pays 50.9% and the employee pays 49.1% 
  • Healthcare fund where the company pays 24.85% and the employee pays 75.15%.

There are also additional benefits for employees, such as funeral cover, bursaries and health care counselling, as well as subsidised eye tests and spectacles through SACTWU.  Salaried employees do not have access to SACTWU member benefits. However, should a salaried employee join a medical aid, the company would contribute up to a maximum of R500 per individual. Salaried employees and directors receive the same level of benefit from the company.

All employees receive annual leave as our factories close down for 15 days over the December and January months every year. Employees also participate in our incentive schemes aimed at boosting production and reducing absenteeism and late arrivals. 

Employee satisfaction and direct engagement

Impahla’s management takes pains to ensure that all employees know that the five executive   directors of the business are available for discussion on any subject at any time. Directors are highly visible on the floor and their office doors are kept open to encourage easy communication. Impahla has suggestion grievance boxes at each facility and this does attract suggestions and issues from time to time. Management responds through consultation and discussion, followed by a written note on the notice board recording the company’s decision.

While no minimum notice period relating to operational changes is specified in the industry-wide NBC agreement, we openly discuss such operational changes during our employee meetings before any changes are made.

Employee turnover has decreased from 28% to 22%. This figure includes absconds, i.e. those employees who just stay away from work. This year 20% (2013/14: 47%) of all employees who left Impahla absconded; the bulk of which were employees who joined Impahla less than three months earlier. In total, 97.5% of our workforce returned to work after taking annual leave. Resignations increased from 11 to 33.

Employee satisfaction survey

We repeated our independent employee satisfaction survey, intended as a way for management to verify its own perception of employee satisfaction against those of the employee themselves.

The sample surveyed for the report was too small to make any meaningful conclusions (11 out of 418 non-senior or top management staff). Nonetheless, overall employee satisfaction score was down to 3.68 out of 5.00, compared with 4.03 in 2013/14. Although individual scores for company policies and procedures, leadership and culture were somewhat down, these were partially offset by good relationships with supervisors, at 4.56 (2013/14: 4.63). Overall enjoyment remains high at 4.27 (2013/14: 4.42).

The biggest issue of concern was communication from management (down 1.42 from 2014), which may relate to the unexpected changes in management; the biggest improvement was how employees regard Impahla as a ‘family environment’ (up 0.42 from 2014).
We aim to build on this survey next year, as a way of testing that we are on the same page in terms of understanding our employees’ level of satisfaction and their specific concerns.

Managing employee grievances

Employees have the right to be treated fairly and raise their concerns without fear of judgement. We have a formal grievance procedure for employees to follow that is explained in our employee handbook accompanying each employee contract. Employees also have access to the employee handbook at each of our canteens.

Employees can raise their concerns directly with their supervisors, senior management, or shop steward, or submit a formal grievance form to Impahla. If necessary, a hearing with an independent external chairperson will be convened to resolve the issue. If employees are not satisfied with the outcome, they can escalate the matter to the NBC for arbitration.

This year, four labour related grievances were reported, addressed and subsequently resolved through the NBC. No incidents of discrimination or human rights violations were reported.

Skills and career development

Impahla understands that it needs to continually improve retention of employees who have already passed the initial probationary phase with the company. We actively seek to employ multi-disciplined individuals with good technical ability and capable of working on different lines as and when required. This aspect is a key recruitment strategy that we believe greatly improves our ability to deal with peaks and troughs in demand across the range of products we manufacture. This has ensured that we have not had to put any employees on short time since we started ten years ago.

Investment in training and skills development is a priority for Impahla. Our workplace skills development plan affords us access to SETA grant funding and our association with sector initiatives such as Clotex and CCTC enables us to develop skills among our employees at no or minimal cost to Impahla.

Through these initiatives Impahla employees received training to the value of R50 400 (2013/14: R22 000). Impahla has supplemented this with an additional R32 622 (2013/14: R31 972) worth of training, resulting in total skills and career development spend of R83 022 (2013/14: R53 972), or R199 per employee for the year, a 58% increase on 2013/14.

This year we had a strong focus on production efficiency, with 25 employees going on a course in lean management. We trained a further 14 employees in first aid, health and safety, and fire-fighting. Two supervisors underwent a five-week on-site coaching and mentoring programme to improve their managerial and leadership capabilities, and three employees received technical software training on computer-aided designs, patternmaking and the use of specialised systems, one received quality training, one received production management training and one received labour relations training.

Only our salary workers, who make up 15% of our workforce, participate in formal performance reviews. We also informally assess the performance of our waged employees in order to promote from within. During the year we promoted 10 employees, one of which was a general worker whom we gave a more challenging role; seven workers were promoted as supervisors and two supervisors were given increased responsibilities.

We acknowledge that our skills development expenditure is relatively low and that we do not have a support programme in place for people that retire or whose employment is terminated. We do not train individuals just for the sake of training; instead we firmly believe that all training must contribute to Impahla’s bottom line.

Absenteeism and late arrivals

Late arrivals and absenteeism (excessive leave for reasons other than illness) are damaging for the business. Employees are entitled to take up to 10 days off when illness or injury occurs (sick leave).

In order to reduce absenteeism and late arrivals, Impahla developed an incentive scheme to encourage employees to reduce unnecessary sick leave and to work full shifts. Each employee is offered an opportunity to receive a maximum of R500 as a bonus every six months if they do not take any sick leave. For every day they take off, they lose R100 of the bonus, resulting in zero bonus for more than five days of sick leave taken.

A similar incentive has been worked out for on-time arrival, where employees receive 0.5% of their gross annual pay if late arrivals are under 1% for the entire employee base. As a result, time lost has been reduced by over half to 0.7% of the baseline figure from 2007. The graph above indicates the bonuses Impahla has awarded over past four years, showing that the Impahla team has excelled on both of these indicators.

Total absenteeism has increased to 2.2% (2013/14: 1.6%). Impahla’s absenteeism and late arrivals sum to a total lost time (TLT) of 3.0%, up from 2.4% last year, but still well below the industry average of 6%. We continue to work towards our target TLT of 2%.

Managing human rights

Basic human rights, such as the right to life, equality, human dignity, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, political rights and the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration are enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution. Respecting human rights is not only the right thing to do, but also a basic requirement of South African company law and an essential requirement for maintaining our relationships with our major clients.

We address human rights through our policies and our Code of Conduct. 99% of all our products are sold under contracts that include human rights clauses to which we are bound to adhere. Furthermore, annual external audits conducted by key clients and the South Africa’s NBC include human rights reviews. With strong policies and annual external audits in place we are confident that none of our operations are at risk of violating any human rights. There were also no human rights violations reported at any of our facilities. Client audits are discussed in more detail on page 29 - 30.

While we do not tolerate human rights violations that come to our attention within our supply chain, we recognise that we do not currently have the financial resources or the capability to conduct in-depth assessments across all our suppliers. As we grow the business, we intend to grow our ability to assess our suppliers, as well as our influence over our suppliers to follow international best practice.

Health and Safety

Impahla is mindful of the pressures that the depressed local economy places on its employees and this, along with concern over health and safety risks and hazards, drives our desire to create security, both physically and emotionally, for our staff within the workplace.
We work hard to create and maintain a healthy and safe working environment for employees, clients and affected neighbours. The NBC main industry agreement requires us to comply with South Africa’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and both the NBC and client audits assess our compliance against stringent health and safety requirements.

Our Occupational Health and Safety policy sets out our commitment to zero harm and all our employees are represented by health and safety committees. Committee members continue to monitor working conditions at each of our facilities on a daily basis, and report any issues to management as they arise.


This year our Total Injury Frequency Rate (TIFR) deteriorated to 61.7 (2013/14: 43.1), reflecting the adjustment required for the 174 new recruits we hired last year to learn safe procedures. However, all injuries were minor and there were no fatalities.

Health and safety management and training is ongoing throughout our production facilities. Following specific interventions that we actioned in the 2013/14 year, we commissioned Hazard Identification and Risk Assessments (HIRA) at each of our facilities towards the end of the period. Our Maitland facility achieved a rating of 98.7%, Epping 99% and Elsies River 93%, and all three were deemed to have ‘acceptable’ levels of occupational health and safety.

Employees are heavily impacted by HIV/Aids, and this has a concerning impact on the workforce, productivity and employee turnover. Impahla therefore urges its entire staff, including senior managers, to take voluntary tests. Working in close co-operation with the NBC as well as SACTWU, HIV/Aids awareness campaigns are regularly held at Impahla.