How to Ensure a Smooth Disciplinary Hearing
We have already canvassed in previous blogs the importance of a disciplinary hearing (“Hearing”) being held before any employee is dismissed, to ensure procedural and substantive fairness.
Planning for possible Hearings is prudent.
Having a Disciplinary Code (“Code”) in the workplace is a useful tool. It allows the employer to set out for the employees, in advance, what the potential sanction will be in respect of each particular form of misconduct, should the employee be found guilty of that particular offence. For example, a first offence of unauthorised absenteeism will result in a verbal warning. But a first offence of gross insubordination will result in a final written warning. A Code also helps to ensure substantive fairness.
The Code should be freely accessible to all employees, and it is recommended that this be posted within the workplace where employees can access it with ease.
Once an employee is perceived to have committed an offence, arrangements need to be made for the Hearing to be convened. The Hearing should always be held within a reasonable time of the alleged offence. In instances where the alleged offence is so severe that the employee is suspended pending the outcome of the Hearing, employers must ensure that the employee is remunerated as per the employment contract during the period of suspension.
The Notice calling the employee to the Hearing should clearly set out the charges which the employee is facing. This provides the employee with sufficient information to be able to answer and respond to the allegations. The Notice should clearly state the date, time and venue for the Hearing, and inform the employee of his / her rights in regards to the Hearing. Most importantly, the right to have an interpreter assist him/her and to be represented by a fellow employee or union representative if applicable.
The Hearing should be chaired by a neutral third party, and many employers utilise the services of employer organisations or attorneys to chair the Hearings in order to ensure objectivity and that the correct procedure is followed.
Whether you are the initiator, representing the employer, or you are the employee facing the charges, it is always important that you prepare properly for the Hearing.
On the date of the Hearing, you must ensure that you have your documents and evidence in order and know which witnesses you intend to call to assist in proving your case.
To find out more about how we can assist you with your labour disputes and internal policies and contracts, contact our Labour specialist Claire Delport.