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What does 'procedural fairness' mean when it comes to disciplinary hearings?

by , 13 August 2014
Any labour expert worth his salt will tell you that 'procedural fairness' is key when it comes to disciplinary hearings. And that you must conduct all your disciplinary hearings with procedural fairness.

But what exactly does this mean?

Read on to find out so you can ensure your disciplinary hearings are effective, fair and legally compliant.

Here's what you need to know about disciplinary hearings and 'procedural fairness'

The term 'procedural fairness' refers to the process you use to discipline or dismiss an employee.

These processes or procedures include:

  • Giving your employee counselling and prior warnings;
  • The process you follow prior to corrective meetings or disciplinary hearings; and
  • The process you follow at the actual corrective meetings or disciplinary hearings. This includes the way in which you give your employee an opportunity to answer to the charges.

Sound confusing? This example will clear things up…

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Here's an example that shows the importance of procedural fairness

An employer brings Claude to a disciplinary hearing for assault. The Chairperson refuses to listen to Claude's side of the story, refuses to allow him to bring witnesses and to cross-examine the witnesses brought against him.

The Chairperson fires Claude. Claude refers a case of unfair dismissal to the CCMA. Although the CCMA Arbitrator agrees that Claude is guilty of serious assault, he orders the employer pay Claude 12 months' salary. This is because the dismissal procedure was unfair.

As you can see, if your dismissal procedures are unfair (even if you have to hold a disciplinary hearing) the CCMA will probably deem the dismissal unfair even if you fired your employee for a fair reason.

Here's the bottom line: You must conduct all your disciplinary hearings with procedural fairness now that you know what it means.

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