Everything you need to know about substantively and procedurally fair disciplinary hearings
So… Your employee's guilty of misconduct. Let's say he took a company laptop home, without asking permission. It's a simple open and closed case of theft, isn't it?
Not so fast! You can't just say 'that's it, you're out of here' and think that's the end of that. No, you still have to hold a disciplinary hearing. You still have to give him a chance to defend his case, and explain why he did that.
What's more is that you have to describe the allegations correctly against the employee. Because if you don't you'll lose your entire case at the CCMA! Don't let this happen to you…
for more details…
CASE: Police and Prisons Civil Rights Unions v Minister of Correctional Services & others (1999) 20 ILJ 2416 (LC)
In this case, there were 44 employees who had 15 charges laid against them.
The union argued that the charges were too vague and so the employees couldn't prepare for the hearing. For example, one of the charges referred to an intimidating phone call. Now, does this mean that all 44 employees made an intimidating phone call (unlikely), or was it just one of the employees?
The Court confirmed that the charge sheet was too vague and ambiguous for the employees.
The employer then went on to argue that the standard for a disciplinary charge sheet isn't the same as for a criminal trial. And while the court agreed with this, they made it clear that he needed to give the exact facts, and sufficient information, about the allegations, so that each of the accused could prepare accordingly for the case against them.
What can you learn from this case?
You should ensure that in a disciplinary hearing involving more than one employee, you deal with the allegations for each employee separately so as to avoid the charges being too general and vague.
Give each employee a notification with the allegations specific to him and ensure you state when and where the alleged incidents took place.
If you realise, only later on, that the initial allegations you've made don't adequately describe the offence the employee committed, you can change them. But only as long as the Chairperson of the disciplinary hearing hasn't come to a decision yet.
And if you decide that it's necessary, you'll have to postpone the hearing so as to give the employee time to prepare accordingly to the changed allegations.
*To learn more, page over to Chapter D 12,
in your Labour Law for Managers
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