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To avoid legal comebacks, make sure you know these six vital points about written warnings

by , 17 September 2014
Disciplinary action can take a number of different forms depending on the seriousness of the offence and how many times your employee has previously committed the same offence within a certain time period.

One form of disciplinary action you can use is a written warning. This is the first step in the formal disciplinary process.

To make sure the decision to give your employee a written warning doesn't come back to haunt you in the form of a CCMA case, familiarise yourself with these six points...

Six important points YOU need to know about written warnings

#1: You can only issue a written warning once your employee has been through the counseling process and when you have given him ample verbal warnings in line with your disciplinary code.

#2: When you issue a written warning or warning letter, keep a full record of this. This will come in handy if you need to discipline your employee again or when he takes you to the CCMA for unfair labour practice.
This applies when you issue a verbal warning too.

#3: The law doesn't lay down a specific number of verbal warnings you must give your employee before you issue a written warning. You can use your own discretion. Just remember to act in a fair manner.

There are three more points you need to know.

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Three additional points you need to know about written warnings

#4: If your employee refuses to sign the written warning, it doesn't mean it's invalid.
You can get a witness to sign it and state that your employee didn't sign.

#5: If the first offence is very serious, you can issue a final written warning.

#6: While labour laws don't mention the timeframe for the validity of written warnings, written warnings are generally valid for three to six months and final written warnings are valid for 12 months.

Be warned! If you just dish out warning letters in an unfair manner, you could land at the CCMA

According to the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management, bargaining councils and the CCMA protect your employees against unfair disciplinary action.

So if your employee feels you didn't follow the correct procedure before giving him a written warning, he can appeal to these bodies.

Luckily, familiarising yourself with these six points will help you avoid any legal comebacks when it comes to written warnings.

PS: We strongly recommend you check out the "You're Fired!" Your guide to substantive and procedurally fair dismissals. It has all the information you need to make sure your dimissals are legally compliant.

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