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Case law shows you're more justified in dismissing senior employees for gross negligence than more junior staff

by , 27 January 2014
There's a difference between negligence and gross negligence. Negligence is when an employee isn't applying an acceptable level of care and conscientiousness to his work duties. Gross negligence on the other hand is the serious neglect of his duty. And it has more serious consequences. In fact, previous court rulings show you're more than justified to dismiss senior employees for gross negligence than more junior staff. Read on to find out more about this...

That's right. You're more justified to dismiss senior employees for gross negligence than more junior staff.

Let's take a look at the case that influenced this conclusion.

Case law: Dismissing senior employees for gross negligence

Unilong Freight Distributors (Pty) Ltd v Muller (1998) 19 ILJ 229 SCA:

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service explains that in Unilong Freight Distributors (Pty) Ltd v Muller(1998) 19 ILJ 229 SCA, it was held that a single negligent act by a managerial employee was sufficient to warrant dismissal because a senior employee should have a greater awareness of the consequences of his negligence.

Here are two more examples that show you're justified in dismissing senior employees for gross negligence than more junior staff

Example 1: A manager at a large chicken breeding corporation was dismissed when he neglected to instruct staff to add nutrients and important antibiotic medication to the feed given to one-week-old chicks.

The manager's negligence led to several hundred chicks dying. The workers weren't held liable, as it was the manager's responsibility to follow the medication schedule properly. The manager was dismissed for gross negligence.

Example 2: In a recent arbitration both the store manager and the assistant manager were dismissed for gross negligence after a stock take revealed shrinkage (staff theft) of carpets valued at R80 000.

In example 2, it wasn't suggested the manager or his assistant manager were responsible for the theft, but it was their responsibility to ensure that all measures were taken to reduce the shrinkage of stock, which they had clearly failed to do.

This example also shows that dismissal can be en masse with both managers being dismissed.

Well there you have it. Knowing how the courts deal with senior employees and gross negligence will help ensure you know how to act when it comes to gross negligence.

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