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Why negligence is misconduct, not incapacity

by , 01 November 2013
Many employers are unsure about whether to describe negligence as misconduct or poor performance (incapacity). If you're one of these employees, read on to find out why negligence is misconduct and not incapacity so you can discipline your employees accordingly.

According to the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service, 'negligence is a broad term given to an employee's conduct or omission (failure to act) that shows he isn't applying an acceptable level of care and conscientiousness to his work duties.'

Contrary to popular belief, your employee's negligence is actually misconduct and NOT incapacity.


The reason negligence is misconduct and not incapacity

The Loose Leaf Service explains that incapacity is a term used when an employee, through no fault of his own, is unable to carry out the tasks and duties of the job properly.

Incapacity takes the form of either poor performance or ill health.

But there's some overlap between an employee failing to perform to an acceptable standard (poor performance) and negligence.

It's incapacity when your employee fails to perform duties properly through circumstances beyond his control, such as a lack of mental or physical capacity.

You must treat this differently from negligence because negligence is misconduct.

Essentially, an employee who knows and understands what's expected of him and is aware of the level of care required to carry out his work tasks satisfactorily, but fails to take sufficient care, is guilty of misconduct – negligence.

Here's an example of negligence:

Mike is required to do mathematical calculations but makes numerous careless errors without bothering to check his work. He's negligent and may be disciplined.

On other hand, Buhle, an older employee, finds it increasingly difficult to complete mathematical calculations correctly due to mental deficiency associated with ageing. She should be dealt with as a case of incapacity not misconduct.

The golden rule: An employee who can do the work properly but won't or is negligent, is guilty of misconduct. An employee who is willing to perform properly but can't, is a victim of incapacity.

Well there you have it. Knowing why negligence is misconduct and not incapacity will help ensure you take appropriate action for both actions.

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