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dismissal

What should an employer do when an employee is absent from the workplace for an extended period? What is the attitude of the CCMA if an employer dismisses the employee in his/her absence? What constitututes a resignation by an employee? There are many permutations to these questions. This week Ivan Israelstam points to some of the dangers in these cases, and cautions employers not to act in anger or in haste.

The South African Constitution provides employees with the right to fair labour practices. Prior to a dismissal decision an employee should be made aware of the allegations against him/her and given chance to be heard on the matter.

When does South African labour law apply? This week Ivan gives us a number of examples where foreign firms thought - incorrectly - that they could do as they please with their employees. No - not so. Ivan demonstrates through a number of cases where these employers made some very serious - and extremely expensive - mistakes. Our courts found that they did have jurisdiction and the defaulting employers paid the employees' costs - in addition to all the other costs.

When employers include disciplinary policy, procedures and codes in employment contracts, it is especially important that the employer follow their own documented procedures. Failure to follow their own procedures will call into question the status of the dismissal of employees. In this case Ivan Israelstam details how the Labour Court judge analysed the failures of both the employer, and the CCMA arbitrator, who supported the dismissal.

Employers would be unwise to assume that just because an employee already has a final written warning on file, that the employer can simply go ahead and process a dismissal. This week Ivan Isralstam explains the complexities to be taken into account - such as the validity of the final written warning.

Employers may feel that an assault does always merit dismissal of the offender's employment. This week Ivan Israelstam explains why this may not always be the case, and why the CCMA arbitrator may re-instate a dismissed employee. He explains the procedural and substantive issues that need to be considered.

Employers who conclude employment contracts, and then terminate the contract for some reason prior to the employee commencing work, need to be aware that the CCMA and Labour Courts will regard this as a dismissal. The meaning of the wording "...works for ..." has been interpreted to include after the contract has been signed, but before actual work has begun. This week Ivan Israelstam explains further.

Employers may view probation as a means of easily terminating employees, who don't quite "fit in" or don't meet company standards. There are clearly set out requirements for employers to comply with before dismissing a probationary employee. This week Ivan Israelstam explains what happens when the James Bond type employer meets the CCMA commissioner.

Employers deal with a range of issues related to illness, for example: a genuinely ill employee who obtains a certificate from a bogus medical practitioner, or a traditional healer; or an employee who is not ill at all but obtains a fake medical certificate; or an employee who was ill but who extends the time given on a genuine certificate by altering the date - such as from a 1 to an 11 to obtain more days off. This week Ivan Israelstam explains the approach of CCMA Commissioners, and when disciplinary action may be taken.

The circumstances of every disciplinary enquiry are different - as are the personal circumstances of the employee involved. Therefore before deciding upon a dismissal decision, the chairperson of a disciplinary enquiry needs to take into account a range of factors in addition to what occurred. Ivan Israelstam explains how the CCMA and bargaining councils have given guidance on how extenuating circumstances should be taken into account.

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