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Restraints of Trade in Employment Contracts

Restraints of Trade in Employment Contracts

While the competition for skills in the renewables space is intense, there has been a definite trend of Employers resorting to imposing codified employment restrictions on current and potential Employees in the form of a Restraint of Trade in contracts of employment.


So at the outset, in the interests of transparency, I have to make it clear that I do not support generalist and broad “Restraints”. In some instances, where there is a clear competitive edge to be gained from “opening up shop next door”, I would say a restraint may be justified and enforceable, but the restraints that we have seen coming through of late are so generalist and broad in scope, that they have zero chance of being upheld by a court.

Refer: “Hardware Centre versus Vallabh and Another” of March 2019, where the Respondent did in fact open a store next door (800m away) and the restraint was not upheld by the court.

Hardware Centre versus Vallabh (2019)


“The Employee undertakes that he shall not… for a period of 12 months after leaving the employ of the Company for any reason whatsoever directly or indirectly set up in business or form part of any business in competition with the Company and/or which carries on a business similar to the Company”.

Guys, please go and get your lawyers / HR to please do the work that you pay them for. If you are serious that you have a specific service or product that is deserving of protection, the least you can do is specify what it is. This is such a broad clause and so arguable, any lawyer worth his or her fee can sidestep it in an instant.


For example: “Set up a business or work for another Employer in the manufacturing and/or assembly of energy storage components for sale and supply into the renewable energy industry”: may (I am not saying will) stand up, as long as it is accompanied by a qualifier on the geographical location as well as a time limit.


For example: “Set up a business in the manufacturing and/or assembly of energy storage components for sale and supply into the renewable energy industry into the distributed / home PV & storage market in the Western Cape”. Is possibly somewhat more enforceable, but still not enough.

If you are serious about having a service or product that is in some way unique and deserving of protection, then you need to be serious about how you word your restraint.


For example: We have seen restraints that are valid for 24 months, in PV component sales, in South Africa – clearly not enforceable! How is it reasonable to prevent someone from making a living in the area of their expertise in such a broad geography for such a long time? It is not, and it won’t be in the eyes of the courts either. The shorter the restraint, the greater its chance of its success. 6 months would perhaps be considered reasonable. 12 months or more, very unlikely, unless you are patenting a new COVID vaccine.

Lastly, take it seriously. If you honestly think that your product/service is worthy of a restraint, then make sure you are prepared to spend a year in court and spend R 100,000 to enforce it and get nothing in return. Are you seriously prepared to do this? if not, then all you are doing is using intimidation to hope that the ex-employee doesn’t come and work in your backyard.


Do not make the mistake of taking a restraint personally. An Employer is also doing no more than trying to make a living and will often feel that need to defend their hard-won gains and turf. And very often, they are poorly advised and do not understand the HR or the law for that matter.

After all, Employers are in the business of doing business and HR and the legalise that come with that are often pretty low on their list in terms of priorities. Yes, yes I hear the coach commentators say, it is an Employers task to understand! After all, they are taking on the responsibility of employing.

But, the Renewable Energy space is by its very nature dominated by start-ups and early adopters, and they, by their nature, do not have the time and capacity for deep HR skills and understanding.


Let it be known: Not once in 8 years of recruitment in renewable energy in South Africa, have we ever had a case where an Employer has successfully defended a restraint of trade that they have imposed on one of our candidates/placements.

Sean Gibson

Managing Director

“AltGen is all about effecting change, through people. With integrity, and passion”. 

Managing Director and Founder of the AltGen’ Group. Sean has played a pivotal role in steering and leading the vision and mission of AltGen, making AltGen the only highly specialist renewable energy recruitment firm operating within the renewable energy and sustainability space in Africa. Sean oversees the success of the entire group of AltGen companies.

Sean holds a Master of Philosophy in Sustainable Development from Stellenbosch University as well as an Honours degree from Rhodes University

Robert Veith

Sales Director

“Without quality and intelligent effort, there is no success and no reward.”

Joining AltGen in 2014, Robert started as a Recruitment Consultant and has since become our Recruitment Director overseeing the Recruitment and Executive Search division. Robert has extensive experience in securing talent for rare skills in the energy engineering market, including skills to the likes of Power System Engineers, SCADA Engineers, Project Developers and Electrical Engineering skills specific to design.

Through Robert’s leadership, each recruitment team is enabled to focus on their specific area of expertise, ensuring all client hiring needs are met. Through Robert’s years of dedication to sourcing and securing top talent in the industry, he has a wealth of insight into the skills market and provides our clients with a competitive advantage in a scarce skills environment enabling them to effectively execute on some of the most challenging renewable energy projects across Africa. Robert is also responsible for growth of the engineering recruitment team.

Robert holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management from UNISA as well as a National Diploma in Electrical Engineering from CPUT.

Lindy Taylor

Business Development & Innovation Director

“The success of an organisation is defined by its people.”

As the Innovation & Business Development Manager, Lindy is responsible for the marketing and business development activities of AltGen. Through her big picture vision, Lindy has enabled AltGen to remain responsive in the cleantech space. She is responsible for engagements with new clients.
Lindy initially joined AltGen in 2015 and has grown into being an integral member of the senior management team. She ensures a collaborative approach with clients catering to their custom needs. Her focus is on attaining new clients, as well as handling contractual relationships with new and existing stakeholders.
Lindy holds a Bachelor’ Degree in Social Sciences from Rhodes University.

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Chris Roetz

Workforce Management Services: General Manager

“My goal is to deliver exceptional operational performance within AltGen – Northern Cape building on people, energy and sustainability”

Chris Roetz oversees AltGen’s Workforce Management division in the Northern Cape. He is responsible for the successful execution of HR advisory and management services for clients’ utility-scale projects in the region. Currently, Roetz mobilises an outsourced staff complement of over 200 employees. He also steers AltGen’s Solar Works programme in conjunction with his Pofadder based team.

Chris has 20 years of professional experience in an HR and outsourced staffing capacity within the energy environment and holds a National Diploma in Human Resource Management from UNISA.

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Muslim Janoowala

Consulting Services: Senior Consultant & Business Development Lead

“My focus is to be able to do impactful work, being in the front lines of the development sector finding solutions to safe and reliable drinking water, power and sanitation”

Muslim Janoowala drives AltGen’s consulting services arm. Muslim has 10+ years of experience in the renewable energy, water and general engineering space in Eastern Africa and has played an instrumental role in the success of AltGen consulting engagement on the AFD Green Mini-grid Programme in Kenya. His expertise caters to M&E activities, project management, impact analysis and assessments of funded water and renewable energy programmes that “enlighten” and uplift communities in rural Africa.

Muslim holds an MSc in Construction Management from Cass Business School and a Bachelor of Engineering in Architectural Environment Engineering from the University of Nottingham.

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Wiehahn de Jager

Senior Consultant & Team Lead

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

Wiehahn de Jager has specialist recruitment expertise in the finance sector and has worked on various mandates for large international and national clients on both a retained and contingency basis. Wiehahn has gained an in-depth understanding of the professional skills operating within the capital markets, fin-tech, and green finance space, with a keen focus on talented professionals within the African context. He has a strong track record successfully working on a range of skill levels, from Directors to Analysts, with a special focus on professionals from mid-level up to Corporate Executives.

Wiehahn holds a Bachelor in Law from the University of Stellenbosch.

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Robert Slater

Senior Consultant & Team Lead

“I love to serve people and be the steppingstone between them and their dream job.”

Robert Slater is an expert in the talent acquisition of carbon management, environmental and social governance-related professionals across Africa. Robert has successfully closed mandates for clients who are focused on sourcing skills with experience in climate change, clean cooking, sustainability, and agricultural environments.

Slater cares deeply for people and the planet, he has a Life Coach Training certification from New Insights and volunteers at ON A MISSION, an NPO which enables businesses and individuals to invest in carbon offset projects. He holds an Honours Degree in Environmental Management from UNISA.

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Natascha Marais


“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. I look for people who want to change the world and introduce them to like-minded companies.”

Natascha Marais is highly skilled when it comes to sourcing those “unicorns” for our clients in the OEM, AI and technology, economic development, and legal spaces.

Natascha has proven experience in identifying and onboarding professionals to the likes of business developers, sales, and account managers as well as technical sales or software developer skills.

Marais holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Law from Pearson Institute.


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