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Can we whip and flail an employee as punishment, if he's agreed, instead of punishing him?

by , 02 February 2015
This is an actual question we received recently on our site LabourandHRclub.co.za...

'Can one put a clause in our Employee's contract that any whipping or flailing done to the Employee is done with permission and as a form of discipline?'

Keep reading below to find out the answer and what our expert said!

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Can we whip and flail an employee as punishment, if he's agreed, instead of punishing him?

Unfortunately for you, the answer is a resounding no. You cannot physically punish an employee as a measure of discipline, no matter how much you think he deserves it... Even if you have his permission!
The same employer then wanted to know if he could use Pavlov's theory in the following way:
'Would it be possible to use a spray bottle of water then, negative reinforcement, like Pavlov's dogs? Obviously with permission. Then it isn't as heavy as corporal punishment, whipping and flailing and all. *Squirt* *squirt* 'bad employee, bad' does that sound more reasonable?'
I'm afraid the answer is still no. But you can give him written warning if it's warranted, which would actually be preferable punishment for most employees. 
Whipping and flailing isn't allowed like it was in the 'old days'. You need to give a warning instead...
As much as we could debate the benefits of physical versus other forms of punishment, we have to go along with what labour laws tells us we're allowed to do. So let's take a look at what your written warning must cover.
Firstly, make sure you issue this on your company letterhead. Be sure to include:
  • The date and time of the corrective meeting
  • A summary of the employee's side of the story around why he did what he did;
  • Details of the offence;
  • If it's the first warning (or second or third) and how long it's valid for;
  • What you expect from him going forward and any actions agreed; and
  • Complete details of what the warning's for and what'll happen if he carries on his behaviour or if he commits any other offences. 

The most important part of the warning is your description of what he's being charged with. If you don't get this right he can argue that the warning is for something he didn't do. So be specific on what you're disciplining him for! 
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