According to The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service, assault is classified as the unlawful and intentional application of force to a person, or a threat that force will be applied. For example, physically beating someone up or threatening to punch someone.
It's important that you handle assault and fighting in the workplace effectively, otherwise you could end up fighting unnecessary court battles when employees accuse you of unfair dismissal.
Use this 6-step guideline if a fight happens in your workplace:
Step 1: Assess the seriousness of any injury and, if necessary, call for an ambulance or paramedic assistance.
Step 2: Interview both employees separately as soon as possible. Both the alleged aggressor and victim in the case of assault, or both employees who were fighting. If possible, get a written and signed statement from each of them.
Step 3: If any employee or member of the public witnessed the incident, take a statement from that person and get them to sign it. If it's someone from outside the company, ask if he'll testify at a disciplinary enquiry. If he agrees to testify, make sure you get all his contact details.
'You should offer to pay any salary they'd lose for the time they have to take off work to testify at an enquiry. If the outsider isn't willing to testify, try to get him to make a sworn affidavit at the nearest police station,' advises Loose Leaf.
Step 4: Apart from verbal evidence of what happened, check documentary evidence, for example, any medical report of injuries sustained by party, any X-Ray reports and hospital records.
Step 5: Evaluate the evidence and decide if it was an assault or a fight. If the evidence suggests it was an assault, draw up allegations in line with your disciplinary code and schedule a disciplinary enquiry.
Remember if the victim's booked off work for a period of time, schedule the enquiry for a date after the victim's recovered. Unless you believe the aggressor's likely to intimidate any witnesses or interfere with the investigation, it's not generally necessary to suspend him pending the disciplinary enquiry.
If the evidence suggests it was a fight, you must draw up allegations against both employees in line with your disciplinary policy and schedule an enquiry.
'It's usually better to hold separate disciplinary enquiries because it'll prevent one of the employees from intimidating the other during the disciplinary enquiry,' advises the Loose Leaf.
Keep in mind that although fighting's a serious offence and could lead to dismissal, it's not normally necessary to suspend both employees, unless they're likely to continue hostilities or intimidate each other or intimidate witnesses.
Step 6: Appoint a neutral chairperson to chair the enquiry.
There you have it. Use these guidelines to deal with a fight or assault between employees.
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