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HR 101 – What to do when . . . You Want to Dismiss Staff – Part 3

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

As usual, our protagonists are standing by to make this journey just that little bit more understandable. We have Mike the Business Owner and George the worker.

Let’s give ourselves a little bit of a story so that we can understand the finer details.

This particular incident is going to be one of Misconduct.

Mike owns a string of retail stores, with most of them being in the bigger malls. George is one of the workers in the warehouse. George has been with the company for 5 years. Mike has a warehouse in Johannesburg and the stock that is required by the stores is disbursed from the main warehouse in Johannesburg.

Mike has a reward program in place, whereby the employees do not get bonuses as a 13th cheque, but rather a profit share as a percentage, based, not on turnover, but on net profit. In this way, the expenses and shrinkage are kept to a bare minimum, by the staff themselves, as they obviously want to share in the highest obtainable profits.

George was caught stealing by another warehouse worker, let’s call him Simon. Simon, justifiably angry (remember George’s stealing has a direct negative effect on Simon’s bonus), states that he is going to report the incident to the Warehouse Manager, let’s call him Andrew. George also gets angry and punches Simon in the face, breaking his nose and his jaw.

Mike has a proper set of procedures in place including a ‘Code of Conduct’ and since he has been in business many precedents have been set. The Procedure Manual is readily and easily available to all staff members and in fact as and when procedures are updated and new ones introduced – the procedures are circulated to all the staff members who sign evidencing that they have not only read but also understand the procedures.

Most of the staff, certainly those that have been employed over a long period of time know and understand that that ‘theft’ is a dismissible offense as is ‘striking’ another employee. The staff understands the limits and those same limits are documented in the ‘Code of Conduct’.

George is advised, in writing, that he is to make himself available for a disciplinary hearing and that the charges are ‘Gross Misconduct, in that he removed Company Property from the premises without the required approvals and documentation and that he struck a fellow worker, breaking both his nose and his jawbone.”

This is not the first time that George has been in trouble at work and Andrew has had to both counsel and discipline George on several smaller infractions. A fully documented record is available in George’s Personnel File and it is clear that Andrew has tried, on countless occasions to get George to change both his attitude and his self-destructive behavior.

You see George has a really aggressive nature and a terrible temper and there have been occasions where George has sworn at fellow workers and other incidents where George has either pushed or shoved other workers.

George has quite a history!

In view of the fact that most of the other incidents were of a minor nature, George was counseled regarding his behaviour and he has fully understood that his attitude needed to change in order for his behaviour to change, but George has not heeded any of the advice and despite being on a Final Written Warning, he has now committed a really serious offense that carries a ‘dismissal’ action.

George still has to be taken through the whole disciplinary procedure though, he cannot just be dismissed out of hand. The disciplinary procedure itself must still be ‘fair’ and should be chaired by an ‘impartial’ person and evidence needs to be presented and the testimony of witnesses from both sides still needs to be heard, collaborated upon, and carefully weighed before any kind of judgment is made. In this case, however, in all probability, George may also face criminal charges of ‘aggravated assault”, as well.

George’s situation, at best is precarious.

Next week we will look at the Disciplinary Procedures relating to dismissal for misconduct.