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disciplinary hearing

We too often hear the shout from business owners and managers: “Get rid of him now; we’ll worry about the legal costs later!” Little do they realise that ‘the costs’ they are shouting about could be immense.

co-workers sitting in virtual meeting

Hearings are a critical part of the business machinery. They provide parties with an opportunity to resolve conflict, and they can mitigate risk for employee and organisation alike. However, the past 18 months have not been ideal for organisations undertaking hearings.

Section 158 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) gives the Labour Court the power to issue interdicts preventing employers, employees or trade unions from proceeding with threatened or current actions. 

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The purpose of workplace disciplinary hearings is to enable the chairperson of the hearing to hear, from both sides, evidence relating to the charges against the employee. Part of the hearing of evidence is the right of the opposing party to cross examine any evidence brought. At such hearings the parties present are normally:

"Hearing chairpersons should not count their chickens before they hatch" is good advice. This week Ivan Israelstam, how - and why - some employers try to manipulate the disciplinary process, and the potential consequences if this advice is not heeded. 

The key document for employers to follow when taking disciplinary action, is the Code of Good Practice: Dismissal (The Code), contained in Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA). This should be read in conjunction with the employer's own Disciplinary Procedure. This week Ivan Israelstam uses cases to explain the difficulties that arise should an employee request to be represented by a lawyer at the internal disciplinary enquiry. 

The CCMA Guidelines: Misconduct Arbitrations (The Guidelines) states that it is not unfair for employers to use third parties such as attorneys to chair disciplinary hearings. However, these highly important guidelines do not give disciplinary hearing chairpersons the right to conduct such hearings in a biased manner. The Guidelines oblige Commissioners to assess whether workplace dismissals are fair or unfair, and it is difficult to see how such dismissals can be fair if the presiding officer is biased and if it is shown that such bias results directly in prejudice to the employee.

Employers generally are now respecting an employee's right to a disciplinary hearing before deciding upon dismissal.  The question is: who chairs the disciplinary hearing, that is: who is the presiding officer of the disciplinary hearing? How important is it that the presiding officer has not been involved in the events leading up to the disciplinary hearing? This week Ivan Israelstam answers these questions.

This week Ivan Israelstam provides a comprehensive explanation on what is required to investigate allegations of misconduct.  Ivan points out that ignoring incidents represents poor management, but before acting upon allegations of misconduct, it is important to conduct investigation into the all the relevant evidence of misconduct. 

This week Ivan Israelstam explains why it is important that an employee should be allowed to cross-examination witnesses giving evidence at a disciplinary hearing. Sometimes a chairperson will interrupt or limit the employee's questions.  What is the implication when this happens?

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