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HR 101 – Don’t Forget the Basic Procedures

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

Most people have this absolute loathing for procedures and policies in the workplace, believing, somewhat naively that “It won’t happen to me”.  Sad that.

Many others, having burnt their fingers once or twice or indeed several times over, now do a 180 degree turn and belabour the point, going too much into the finer detail and forgetting the basics.

Here’s the thing – too much is just as bad as too little.  Oh I can just see all of you, shaking your heads sadly and wondering (probably out loud) if ‘this woman will ever be happy’ with what you do.?

Stick to the basics – keep it as simple as possible.  Putting in too much detail and complicating the whole process may well result in the whole thing going pear-shaped as chances are you will be opening the lid of “Pandora’s Box”.

Here’s the story.

Mike owns a courier company and has many vehicles and drivers in his employ.  Both George and Simon are drivers who were driving around the yard early one morning prior to going out onto the road to do their deliveries.  George was still inebriated from the night before and should probably not have been driving anything.  George’s reactions were not what they should have been and coming around a corner, he failed to react in time and went smack bang into the side of Simon’s vehicle, which was parked at the loading bay.  Clearly George was at fault.

Mike drove George off to the nearest police station and requested that station commander and/or one of his staff test George for alcohol excess.  This implied that Mike did not have the means to conduct an alcohol test on his own premises.

For whatever reason, the police could not do the test either.

Mike then conducted a disciplinary hearing on George the next day.  George was found guilty and dismissed for drinking and driving, for endangering the lives of others and also for the damage that he caused to both vehicles.

George was also not advised that he had the right to appeal the findings.

The Court was not impressed.  You see although it agreed that George was intoxicated at the time of the accident, proper procedures were not followed.

• George did not know that he could be dismissed for being drunk on duty – there was no Dismissal policy or Code of Conduct policy in place.
• George was only advised that the charges were at the actual disciplinary hearing. The charges should have been recorded on the charge sheet or the notice to attend a disciplinary.
• George’s previous disciplinary record was not taken into account.
• George was not given enough notice of the disciplinary
• Mike did not ‘test’ to see whether George’s conduct had damaged the employment relationship to such an extent that George’s continued employment would be intolerable.
• What about the element of ‘trust’ in the relationship.  Mike had not shown that the trust between himself and George had been irreparably damaged.
• The most damaging aspect of this case though was that the Court said that it was the ‘responsibility of the Management to ensure that George (or any other employee for that matter) did not start working if he was drunk and/or had consumed alcohol prior to commencing work.’

Mike had not followed that basic procedures when putting this case together and based on that alone, he would have lost the case.

So before you do the ‘knee jerk’ thing – step back, take some time to think about what you are doing.  Look at your own internal policies and procedures and make sure that you follow them step by step.  Chances are that if you are procedurally correct, the case will not go to CCMA for arbitration.

Remember, if you are not sure about what you are doing, find an HR specialist, don’t try and do things yourself. It will cost you more in the long run.