Four Disciplinary Sanctions You Need to Know

By Tim Germond, BSocSci – LLB UCT

Following a disciplinary code is necessary for the efficient running of a business, the safety and fair treatment of all employees, and ensuring sound labour/ management relations. This code provides guidelines for management to ensure the fair, just, and uniform application of disciplinary measures and provides a reference for management engaged in applying discipline.

The application of discipline is the right and responsibility of line management. Disciplinary action is not taken lightly. The responsibility for implementing action is reserved for Company representatives who are of the appropriate responsibility and seniority. The imposition of discipline is the prerogative of management only, and if there is doubt Human Resources should be consulted.

Disciplinary steps are instituted to obtain the cooperation of all employees within the workplace and to protect the interests of both the employee and the employer in the process of dealing with unacceptable behaviour.

In the enforcement of discipline, emphasis must be on guidance and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

In certain instances, the Company reserves the right to impose the most severe sanction on an employee without following the principles of corrective and progressive discipline, as and when it sees fit to do so.

The application of discipline must at all times be lawful, just, fair and consistent.

Disciplinary Sanctions

Four basic sanctions can be imposed against any employee. However, this is not an exhaustive list and the Company may impose a sanction that they see fit, once the proper procedure is followed.

The four basic sanctions in ascending order of severity are:

  • Verbal Warning: In case of a moderate offence, a superior should conduct an informal disciplinary interview (or counselling session) with the employee that may result in a verbal reprimand. A written record is kept of this warning and it will be valid for 3 (three) months.
  • Written Warning: If verbal warnings fail, management should give the employee a formal Written Warning after counselling the employee for a second time. A Written Warning shall be valid for 6 (six) months. All Written Warnings will be recorded on a disciplinary form that will be placed on the employee’s file. A copy of the disciplinary form will be handed to the employee.
  • Final Written Warning: A repetition of wrongful behaviour or a more serious offence can result in a Final Written Warning. Another counselling session is to be held and the Final Written Warning will be valid for 12 (twelve) months, or as otherwise determined by management.

The most important aspect of this process is to keep all counselling sessions and warnings recorded in the employees’ files.

  • Dismissal of an employee If you need to address the employee once again, Dismissal with pay in place of notice or summary dismissals will follow. After a series of progressive and/or corrective measures have not produced the anticipated effect. Or a series of verbal or written reprimands given for minor misconduct have not been effective; or when an employee has committed major misconduct, the Company should hold a formal disciplinary inquiry before termination of the employee’s services. Dismissal without notice can be justified in terms of the Company policy and precedent and the principles of the common law. When such an instance occurs the employee must be informed of the reason for his/her dismissal in writing.