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Can you really dismiss your employee for insubordination or insolence? Here's what the law says

by , 10 March 2015
Employers often chalk up refusing to obey an instruction with "just plain bad attitude" and not insubordination or insolence because in practice they frequently occur simultaneously. But in the workplace, they define very different behaviours. Here's what you need to know about these two common misconduct offences so you can discipline your employee correctly.

Insolence represents a disrespectful behavior towards the employer whilst insubordination is your employee's refusal to obey a lawful and reasonable instruction from his superior.
 
Bare this is mind though: If an employee is both insubordinate and insolent, the allegations forming the basis of his disciplinary hearing t must include two charges, i.e. insubordination and insolence. Should you wish to dismiss the employee, this will strengthen your case.
 
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Remember: Not all cases of insubordination justify dismissal. In cases where your employee's refusal to obey an instruction doesn't have serious or significant negative consequences for you as an employer, a written or final written warning would be more appropriate than instant dismissal. The Code of Good Practice stresses that only gross insubordination warrants dismissal on a first offence.
 
There are, however, circumstances where you may be able to dismiss the employee for insubordination on a first offence. Once such scenario is when the employee makes it clear to you that he has no intention of ever complying with future instructions you might give.
 
Follow the correct disciplinary procedure and you can win the case in court
 
The Court case of SACCAWU obo Ngobese vs. Pick'n Pay KN20877-02 is a great example  of this type of cases which was ruled in favour of the employer. 
 
In this particular case, the employer charged and dismissed the employee for gross insubordination as a result of her failing to comply with the company clocking-in procedure, which obliged employees to clock in and out when taking tea breaks. She admitted that she was aware of the company rule requiring employees to do so and she had received a prior final written warning for the same offence. The Court, therefore ,held that this particular dismissal had been fair.
 
There you have it. Don't take an employee's 'bad attitude' lying down. Discipline him for the right offence so he knows you won't tolerate this behaviour in future. 

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