Most employers have had to deal with the issue of disciplinary action in the course of employing members of staff. While the process of taking action against negligent or incompetent staff is clearly laid out by the law, the stress involved can be reduced by keeping records at every step.
There are various forms and stages of action that employers can take against staff who are failing to perform their duties for reasons of negligence, incompetence, lateness, or disregard for company property. From the issuing of warnings to suspensions, disciplinary hearings and eventual dismissal, the onus is on employers to record the details of each disciplinary action for future reference. From the time a member of staff receives his or her first written warning, every disciplinary action must be put down in writing, along with its outcome.
If disciplinary action does nothing to correct a staff member’s attitude or work ethic, having a collection of written documents can make the difference between victory and defeat at the CCMA. Employers should also remember that it is not always sufficient to simply record the fact that a staff member was warned about sub-standard work or negligence. The outcome of every disciplinary action should be noted – whether the member of staff improves his or her performance following the action is as important as the fact that action was taken.
If dismissal becomes inevitable and a CCMA case results, the chances of winning a case increase in the employer’s favour when written records can be presented to the chairman of the hearing. A staff member who has proven to have been negligent and made no attempt to improve his or her performance is far less likely to win a CCMA case, and written records are the best form of proof. Legitimate cases where employees were reinstated despite their negligence have occurred because of a lack of written records – a cause of lost productivity and strained workplace relations for all involved.