Discipline and Dismissal

Again this week, e-mail enquiries received have only served to reinforce the great need existing among employers for a proper understanding ( training???) in matters procedural. And the response to last weeks article on the subject only confirms our view that "die nood is groot.!"

One enquiry received informed me that the employer had given the employee written notice to attend a disciplinary hearing, but had not given the employee any details of the charges "in case he tries to destroy the evidence."  "I dismissed him because it was theft," states the employer, "And now, I have received a notice from the CCMA for unfair dismissal."   "How can he do that ?" the employer wants to know – "I did everything by the book." 

Well, I don't know what book that was – but it certainly was not one that I have ever come across. The employers perception of "by the book" and the CCMA's perception of "by the book" are quite obviously two different books – and they are miles apart. Many employers have included in their employment contracts, a clause that reads something like "the employee may be dismissed at any time for any legal reason by the employer giving the employee one month written notice."

 In the eyes of the employer, theft (or any other act of misconduct as well as poor performance, late-coming, unauthorized absenteeism and going off sick ) constitutes  a "legal reason" , and they happily dismiss the employee accordingly – resting blissfully in the knowledge that the above clause (or something similar) in the employment contract will "get them off the hook."

 "We have done it by the book!!"   Whose book ??? Obviously, many employers have read the wrong book. The fact remains that no employee may be dismissed unless the employer first follows a fair procedure, and the dismissal is effected for a fair reason. The books that are being used as a work of reference by many employers obviously contain insufficient information (or none at all) on what constitutes a fair procedure and what constitutes a fair reason. 

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