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HR 101 – It’s All About Consistency

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

Perhaps the best place to start would be to define ‘consistency’. My Concise Oxford Dictionary says:

“Compatible, not contradictory, constant to same principals.”

In the working environment it means, quite simply – that the employer must treat all the employees in the same manner. That the expectations for work performance, work output, attitude, attention to detail, attendance (and any other measurable’s that you can think of) are the same for each of the employee’s irrespective of what their position, race, gender etc. is. That people are all treated fairly and with respect, again irrespective of their position, race, gender etc is.

Let’s have a look at some of the areas where this may be a problem.

1. In the instance where an employee is related to Management or they have a relationship other than a Business Relationship.

We’ve all had one of these I am sure – either we have been in the relationship or we’ve been on the receiving end of unfair practice. This is one of the reasons why it isn’t always such a good idea to work with family or friends or have an intimate relationship with someone in the workplace. The perception is always and will always be, by the rest of the staff, that they get preferential treatment. So you have to be extra careful to ensure that you don’t ‘play the favorite’! Make sure that everybody has a Letter of Employment and all the other relevant documentation that staff are required to have. Make sure that if the other staff have to say, sign the attendance register, so too does the family member/friend/lover.

2. Consequences

Should it be necessary to hold a disciplinary or a counseling or reprimand an employee (irrespective of who they are or their position in the Company), it must be done in the same manner and carry the same consequences as any previous instances. If there are no previous instances – be careful how the ‘new’ one is conducted as this will set a precedent for all future transgressions of this nature!

Here’s an example. When you hire an employee – if you check references for one, you must check references for all. If it is found, at a later stage, that the bookkeeper you hired because you were having a relationship with her at the time, was actually dismissed from her previous company for theft. Your relationship, in the meantime has come to an end and life at the office is uncomfortable and quite frankly it would be better for you if she just left. So you charge her with misconduct in that she “deliberately failed to disclose material information upon employment”. You hold your disciplinary, find her guilty and dismiss her – lovely – end of problem! Actually not hey – you see, if she goes to the CCMA you could come unstuck because of an “Unfair Dismissal because the Employer (yes that’s you) failed to apply discipline consistently.”

This is another reason why you should have documented policies and procedures on how you do things, like interviewing the staff member and checking of references or as it is more commonly known – a Staff Procurement Policy.

At the very least, you may be forced to accept the staff member back at work or face huge monetary payouts. Not too good either way.

So the bottom line here is to be consistent in how you treat your staff. If you have a rule about anything it must apply to everyone, not just the person who happens to be irritating you at the moment.