Categories

Disciplinary Management

Employee Relations - Disciplinary Management

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Background

All divisions are required to adopt a Disciplinary Code that will establish the standard of conduct expected of their employees. These rules will differ according to the size and the nature of the Division and will range from a relatively informal person-to-person approach to discipline to formal systems of rules and rule management.

The disciplinary code will set out the procedures that must be followed in respect of specific disciplinary infractions and the disciplinary sanctions (verbal warnings, written warnings, and dismissal) that ordinarily attach to each (type of) disciplinary offence. A Standard Group Policy is in place that will serve as a guide to the Divisions.

Obligations

The employer needs to ascertain that all employees are aware of the rules and the reasonable standards of behaviour that are expected of them in the workplace. The employee is required to comply with the disciplinary code and procedures at the workplace. The employee also needs to ensure that he/she is familiar with the requirements in terms of the disciplinary standards in the workplace.

Counseling Versus Disciplinary Action

There is a difference between disciplinary action and counselling. Counselling will be appropriate where the employee is not performing to a standard or is not aware of a rule regulating conduct and/or where the breach of the rule is relatively minor and can be condoned.

Disciplinary action will be appropriate where a breach of the rule cannot be condoned, or where counselling has failed to achieve the desired effect. Before deciding on the form of discipline, management must with meet the employee to explain the nature of the rule he/she is alleged to have breached. The employee should also be given the opportunity to respond and explain his/her conduct. If possible, an agreed remedy on how to address the conduct should be arrived at.

Forms of Discipline

Disciplinary action can be taken a number of ways, depending on the seriousness of the offence and whether the employee has breached the particular rule before. The following forms of discipline are to be used (in order of severity):

  • Verbal warning;
  • Written warning;
  • Final written warning;
  • Suspension without pay (for a limited period);
  • Demotion, as an alternative to dismissal only; or
  • Dismissal.

Please note that the above forms of discipline are the only recognized forms and Divisions are not allowed to deviate from these.

The Process

The employer should establish how serious an offence is, with reference to the disciplinary rules. If the offence is not very serious, informal disciplinary action can be taken by giving an employee a verbal warning.

The law does not specify that employees should receive any specific number of warnings, for example, three verbal warnings or written warnings, and dismissal could follow as a first offence in the case of serious misconduct.

Formal disciplinary steps would include written warnings and the other forms of discipline listed above. A final written warning could be given in cases where the contravention of the rule is serious or where the employee has received warnings for the same offence before. An employee can appeal against a final written warning, and the employer can hold an enquiry if the employer believes that it is only through hearing evidence that the outcome can be determined.

Written warnings will remain valid for six months. Final written warnings will remain valid for twelve months.

 

A warning for one type of contravention is not applicable to another type of offence. In other words, a first written warning for late-coming could not lead to a second written warning for insubordination. Employees will be requested to sign warning letters and will be given an opportunity to state their objections, should there be any. Should an employee refuse to sign a warning letter, this does not make the warning invalid. A witness will be requested to sign the warning, stating that the employee refused acceptance of the warning.

Dismissal is reserved for the most serious offences and will be preceded by a fair disciplinary enquiry unless an exceptional circumstance results in a disciplinary enquiry becoming either an impossibility (e.g. the employee absconded and never returned) or undesirable (e.g. holding an enquiry will endanger life or property).

Formal Enquiries

An employee may be suspended on full pay pending a hearing, especially in instances when the employee’s presence may jeopardise any investigation. The employer must also allow the employee to make representations. The employer should give the employee not less than three days’ notice of the enquiry, and the letter should include:

  • The date, time and venue of the hearing
  • Details of the charges against the employee
  • The employee’s rights to representation at the hearing by either a fellow employee or shop steward.

Note: If the employer intends disciplining a shop steward, the employer must consult with the union before serving notice to attend the enquiry on the intention to discipline the shop steward including the reasons, date and time.

Presentation at Enquiries

  • A chairperson
  • A management representative
  • The employee
  • The employee representative
  • Any witnesses for either party
  • An interpreter if required by the employee

Conducting of the Hearing

The employer should lead evidence. The employee is then given an opportunity to respond. The chairperson may ask any witnesses questions for clarification. At the ending, the chairperson decides whether the employee is guilty or not guilty. If guilty, the chairperson must ask both parties to make submissions on the appropriate disciplinary sanction. The chairperson must then decide what disciplinary sanctions to impose and inform the employee accordingly.

 

The employee should be informed that he/she has the right to appeal the outcomes. If the employee is still not satisfied after the appeal’s process, the employee must be reminded that he/she could take the case further to the CCMA or bargaining council.

Process flow

Process Specification

Process Owner

The person that is accountable for this specific process.

Stakeholder(s)

All parties that have a vested interest in this process.

Recording Requirements

Requirements that need to be recorded during this process. What, How, Where.

Storage Requirements

Requirements that need to be reported on during this process. What, How, When, Where.

Reporting Requirements

Requirements that need to be stored during this process. What, How, When, Where.

Audit Requirements

Requirements that need to be met in to comply with Auditing Regulations.  What, How, When, Where & Type of Audit Requirement.

Notifications

Any Notifications that need to be Generated and/ or Actioned During this Process.

Reminders

Any Reminders that need to be Generated and/ or Actioned During this Process.

Transparency & Communication

 Any Transparency, Communication & Distribution Requirements needed for this Process.

Knowledge & Skills

 Any Knowledge & Skills required to successfully complete this process.

System

Links and Process within a system that directly relates to this Process.

Workflows

Are there any Workflows that drive this Process? This can be Manual or NFE Workflows.

Legislation & Governance

Any Legislation, Bodies, Processes, Policies that Govern this Process.

Templates, Forms, Guides and Work Instructions

Links to Templates, Forms Guides and Work Instructions that are either to be used for application or as Guidelines to meet minimum requirements for this Process

S.A. Board for People Practices

Does this Process Align with SABPP. This can either be Fully, Partially or Not at All.

The Process

Inputs are all of the Elements deemed necessary to complete the process successfully.

  • Disciplinary Code
  • Evaluation of Offence
  • Generate Notice to Attend Hearing

Tasks are the Step-by-Step Actions to be taken to complete the Process.

  • Signed Notice to Attend Hearing
  • Hearing outcomes:
    • Written warning (Valid for six months)
    • Final written warning (Valid for twelve months)
    • Suspension without pay (investigations required)
    • Demotion (alternative to dismissal)
    • Dismissal
  • Verbal Warnings

    The Line Manager/ HR Representative/ HR Department should establish how serious the offence is, with reference to the disciplinary rules. If the offence is not very serious, informal disciplinary action can be taken by giving an employee a verbal warning. It is important to record these on the employee’s personal file in case a re-offense occurs. This will then escalate the offence to a more serious nature.

    Formal Proceedings

    If it is found that the merits of the offence are of a more serious nature, the Line Manager/ HR Representative/ HR Department should take a more formal approach.

    Before any proceeding begins, the case should be evaluated to establish if the merits are grounds for suspension (full pay) to grant the employer time for further investigations. Suspensions also serve as a tool to prevent the employee’s presence to possibly jeopardise investigations.

    The Line Manager/ HR Representative/ HR Department should issue the employee with a letter of Notice to Attend Hearing. The employee should not receive this less than three days from the date of the hearing. The Notice to Attend Hearing should include:

    • The date, time and venue of the hearing
    • Details of the charges against the employee
    • The employee’s rights to representation at the hearing by either a fellow employee or shop steward.

    Note: If the employer intends disciplining a shop steward, the employer must consult with the union before serving notice to attend the enquiry on the intention to discipline the shop steward including the reasons, date and time.

    Attendees to hearings should consist of the following:

    • A chairperson (Mandatory)
    • A management representative (Mandatory)
    • The employee(Mandatory)
    • The employee representative (Optional)
    • Any witnesses for either party (Optional)
    • An interpreter if required by the employee (Optional)

    The employer should lead evidence. The employee is then given an opportunity to respond. The chairperson may ask any witnesses questions for clarification. At the ending, the chairperson decides whether the employee is guilty or not guilty. If guilty, the chairperson must ask both parties to make submissions on the appropriate disciplinary sanction. The chairperson must then decide what disciplinary sanctions to impose and inform the employee accordingly.

    Minutes of all hearings are to be recorded and stored on employee personal files.

    The employee should be informed that he/she has right to appeal the outcome. If the employee is still not satisfied after the appeal’s process, the employee must be reminded that he/she could take the case further to the CCMA or bargaining council.

    Hearing outcomes are limited to the following categories (no other categories or outcomes are allowed)

    • Written warning (Valid for six months)
    • Final written warning (Valid for twelve months)
    • Suspension without pay (investigations required)
    • Demotion (alternative to dismissal)
    • Dismissal

    Dismissal is reserved for the most serious offences and will be preceded by a fair disciplinary enquiry unless an exceptional circumstance results in a disciplinary enquiry becoming either an impossibility (e.g. the employee absconded and never returned) or undesirable (e.g. holding an enquiry will endanger life or property).

    END OF PROCESS