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Cosatu fires Vavi for gross misconduct! (But what does that really mean?)

by , 31 March 2015
News just in: Costatu has fired Zwelinzima Vavi for allegedly failing to fulfil his duties as secretary.

In what was called a case of "gross misconduct," Cosatu has revealed that 31 members central executive committee voted in favour of Vavi's dismissal.

If, like many business owners, you're wondering what the difference between misconduct and gross misconduct really is, read on to discover the answer...


What's the difference between misconduct and gross misconduct?

The reasons you can fire an employee are as varied as your employees themselves.
But, time and time again, you'll find that various behavioural issues crop up that you need to deal with. 
Some, fall under the category of 'general misconduct'. Others, are more serious. These are 'gross misconduct' issues and, according to labour law, they can result in automatic dismissal.
But you know when your employee's behaviour is serious enough to warrant this?
General misconduct covers minor misdemeanours. Things like being late for work or using the company telephone for personal calls. This type of behaviour warrants a verbal or written warning. Although continued misconduct of this nature can result in dismissal. 
Gross misconduct, on the other hand, also takes on many forms. But, in general, these are offences that jeopardise the function of your business or the safety and well-being of your staff. The classic example is theft. But things like physically assaulting an employer, colleague or client and bribery and corruption count too.
If you catch your employee in an act of gross misconduct here's what to do…
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How to deal with gross misconduct

As an employer, it's your duty to draw up guidelines of what counts as misconduct and what constitutes gross misconduct. This gives your employees a clear understanding of what will happen if they contravene. This obviously needs to be communicated to your staff – the best way is through a signed HR policy. But it's imperative that the guideline you give your employees makes it very clear that the examples are non-exhaustive.
Then, if your employee oversteps, follow labour law's Code of Good Practice on Dismissals:
It state that, the person determining whether a dismissal for misconduct is fair should consider:
(a) Whether or not the employee contravened a rule or standard regulating conduct in, or of relevance to, the workplace; and
(b) If a rule or standard was contravened, whether or not-
(i) The rule was a valid or reasonable rule or standard;
(ii) The employee was aware, or could reasonably be expected to have been aware, of the rule or standard;
(iii) The rule or standard has been consistently applied by the employer; and
(iv) Dismissal was an appropriate sanction for the contravention of the rule or standard.
Only if you've done all this and have followed your HR policies and procedures to the letter will your decision to dismiss an employee on grounds of gross misconduct hold up in court. 

And remember, if you're faced with an employee issue that you don't know how to deal with, ask our labour experts what they'd do if they were you. 

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