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Use your disciplinary policy to prevent the need for disciplinary action in the first place!

by , 08 May 2013
The Oudtshoorn army base is making headlines for the way it punishes recruits - again. In January, a pregnant member of the defence force committed suicide after she was told that she was a disgrace to the force. Last Friday, army recruits who bent the rules by sneaking out to a bar were punished with a drastic training session that could leave one without the use of his arm. Here's how to make sure your employees are aware of the disciplinary action that could result any time they break the rules of your company.

Last Thursday, five army recruits, sneaked out of the Oudtshoorn base and visited a nearby bar without authorisation. 
They were dressed in full uniform, says EyeWitnessNews.
And that's a punishable offence.
But the South African National Defence Force now has a board of inquiry investigating the drastic training session used to punish the recruits.
The reason? One of the punished recruits is in danger of losing the use of an arm, says The Mail & Guardian Online.
So the punishment definitely doesn't fit the crime.
But how do you get your employees back in line when they commit a disciplinary offence based on their behaviour?
You know you need to take disciplinary action when employees break the rules…
It's essential to take disciplinary action against acts like alcohol abuse in the workplace, says FSP Business.
But you should never assume your employees know your disciplinary policies and what's seen as a punishable offence.
Because in an ideal world, employees would always behave correctly and you'd never have to take disciplinary action against them... but the real world is an entirely different kettle of fish, adds FSP Business
But do your employees know the rules they're breaking? Make sure they do by going through your disciplinary policy with them!
That's why you should never take it for granted your employee is aware of your policies and procedures, cautions Taryn Strugnell in the Labour Bulletin. 
'He can't be found guilty if he doesn't know what the disciplinary policies are. In labour law the employee has the right to not know the law. So ignorance is an excuse.'
Added to this, the Labour Relations Act says your main reason for taking disciplinary action is to correct the behaviour and not simply to punish an employee, states FSP Business.
So you must be clear about what the employee is doing wrong and how he should behave correctly.
To do this, you'll need to make sure you draw up a fair, consistent and clear disciplinary policy that outlines how you'll deal with any offences or misbehaviour.
Then go through the disciplinary policy with your employees, so they know how to behave correctly right from the start and that there are no misunderstandings.
It's the best way to avoid taking disciplinary action in the first place, as your employees will be clear on what's acceptable behaviour – and what punishment to expect if they go against the rules.

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