Warnings
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    André Claassen

    Because of the progressively corrective nature of disciplinary action, the sanction applied should also be progressive in nature. Depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances under which it as committed, the sanction can range from a verbal warning through to a written warning, a final written warning and dismissal. Warnings do not necessarily have to follow the order of verbal – written – final written – dismissal, unless the employer has made provision for this procedure in his Disciplinary Code

                           

    Thus, if the employer's Code states that for a first offense of misconduct a verbal warning must be given and for the second offense of a similar nature a written warning must be given, then for the third offense a final written warning then on the fourth offense dismissal, then the employer is generally bound to follow his own procedure. It is therefore possible to dismiss even on a first offense and without any prior warnings having been issued, but that will depend on the severity of the offense, the circumstances under which it was committed, and the provisions of the employer's Disciplinary Code.

                                    

    There are certain elements that must be contained in a warning. The purpose of the warning is to try and correct a situation, if necessary by progressively more severe sanction each time the offense is repeated, or if there are repeated offenses of misconduct.

                                 

    A warning must contain

    • the identity of both parties
    • the nature of, date of and time of the offense
    • the terms of the warning and validity period
    • clear statement of what action is required of the guilty party to rectify the situation
    • clear statement of the consequences of the guilty party's failure to take heed of the requirements of the warning or of repeated offenses (of similar or other misconduct)

                                    

    Verbal Warnings

                                                     

    A verbal warning is usually applied for a very minor offense, where the matter is resolved at shop floor level. Where a verbal warning is warranted, it is seldom necessary to embark on formal disciplinary procedures, and an informal procedure culminating in a verbal warning will generally achieve the desired result. As in every case, prior to issuing the warning, the manager concerned must follow a fair procedure and allow the employee the opportunity to put his side of the case.

                        

    The verbal warning is then issued, in the presence of a witness or shop steward, and the manager issuing the warning must ensure that the employee understand why the warning has been issued and what action is required of the employee to rectify the situation, and – very importantly – the employee must understand what the consequences will be should he/she fail to take heed of the warning. A verbal warning, say for swearing at a colleague, would be something like this"

                               

    "Godfrey Smith, as you know Jeffrey Dlamini reported to me that you swore at him at tea time today in the canteen. (both parties are identified, the nature of the offense is stated and the date, time and place of the offense is stated.) I have heard your side of the story and I have heard Jeffrey's evidence. I am satisfied that you swore at Jeffrey and you have admitted this and apologized. I am giving you now a verbal warning in the presence of the shop steward Alfred Molefe that swearing at your colleagues for any reason is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. You are warned against using foul or abusive language against any person at this company. (this tells the guilty party what he must do to rectify the situation.)

                            

    This warning is valid for 3 months, this tell the guilty party how long he has got to rectify the matter) and should you fail to take heed of this warning then stricter disciplinary action will be taken against you. (this tells him what will happen if he does not rectify the matter) Do you understand what I have just explained and do you understand what will happen if you fail to take heed of this warning?" (this makes certain that there is no misunderstanding on the part of the guilty party about what is required.)

                           

    The manager must make a note of the reply given by the accused. If he does not understand, ask him what part he does not understand and have another person explain to him in a language that he can clearly understand. The manager issuing the warning must make a note in his diary or other convenient place where the record can be kept for future reference, noting that the warning was issued, the date and time it was issued, why it was issued and the period of validity of the warning.

                                     

    It is not recommended that details of a verbal warning be placed on the employee's personal file. This is a minor matter and is handled at shop floor level. The employee's personal record will become involved only when and if formal proceedings are invoked. Should there be no recurrence of a similar nature within the validity period of the verbal warning, then the notes made by the manager in his diary may be deleted.

                      

    Written warning

                                        

    A written warning is resorted to when

    • a verbal warning has failed to produce the desired result, therefore necessitating stricter action,
    • or if the offense for which a verbal warning was issued has been repeated
    • or if there have been repeated offenses of other misconduct,
    • or if the offense (even a first offense ) is considered serious enough to warrant disciplinary action stricter that a verbal warning.
                     
    It is emphasized that a written warning should only be issued after having followed a fair procedure, whereby the accused has been afforded the opportunity to present his case in answer to the charges against him. A written warning must contain all the elements previously mentioned, and would generally be along the following lines:

                   
    Example of written warning:

    To " Mr Naughty employee"

                                           
    Re: Disciplinary Hearing 31st March 2010 : Charge of Insubordination against yourself.

                  

    Reference is made to the above disciplinary proceeding, wherein you were charged with insubordination in that you either refused, failed or neglected to carry out a reasonable and lawful instruction given by Mr. John Foreman, to whit that you were instructed to park your truck in the workshop for the night of 30th March 2010 because the normal parking area had already been locked up for the night by security staff. 

                      
    You refused, failed or neglected to carry out this instruction with the result that the battery of the truck was stolen during the night because you left the truck parked in the yard , incurring the company in expenses of R800-00 for a new battery. (the employee has been identified and the date, time , place and nature of the offense clearly stated)

                            

    You were found guilty as charged by the Chairperson of the Disciplinary Hearing, and you must clearly understand that insubordination – including a failure, refusal or neglect to carry out a reasonable and lawful instruction is regarded as a serious offense and will not be tolerated. (the employee is told that this is considered to be a serious matter.) You are hereby warned that should you commit a similar offense or should you commit any further act of misconduct during the validity period of this warning, further and more stringent disciplinary action will be invoked, which may include your dismissal.



    You are required to refrain from committing any acts of misconduct during the course of your employment with this company. This warning is valid for a period of 6 months from date hereof. (the employee has been told that the offense is serious, that he must not commit acts of misconduct, that he must not commit a repeat offense, and that the warning is valid for 6 months. He has also been warned of what consequences may result should he fail to heed the requirements of this warning, namely that he could be dismissed)

            

    (The employee has also been told what action is required of him to rectify the situation.)

    Yours Faithfully,

     

     

    Very Annoyed Boss.


    I know and understand the contents of this warning. I have received a copy of this warning.

    Employee signature ________________________ Date : ______________

    Witness Signature : __________________________________

     

    The employee signs this to state that he understands the contents of the warning and that he has received a copy. He is not signing to say that he agrees with it – only that he understands it and has received a copy. Should the employee refuse to sign, then hand him a copy in the presence of the witness, and the witness will certify on the file copy of the warning that a copy was handed to the employee.

        

    Final written warning

                 

    A final written warning is taking the disciplinary process a step further, and is in fact a sort of "last resort" The perception is simply "if this does not work, then out he goes." If any previous written warning (remember there need not necessarily have been any previous written warnings – this final written warning can be issued even for a first offense if the seriousness of the offense calls for such strict and serious action) has failed to achieve the desired result, then the final written warning is issued.

                

    This is a serious matter, and usually is the result of repeated offenses of a similar nature or in the case of habitual or repeated offenses of misconduct, which may not necessarily be the same offenses but can be various offenses of misconduct. The final written warning is usually the employer's last desperate attempt to avoid dismissal – but invariably dismissal will result should the employee fail to heed the serious of and the requirements of the final written warning. We will use the example as a follow up to the written warning above, and assume that the employee has failed to take heed of the previous written warning.

                   

    To : Guilty Employee.

    Dear

    Re : Disciplinary Hearing 30th April 2010 : Charge of Insubordination against yourself.


    Reference is made to the above matter, wherein you were found guilty of refusing, failing or neglecting a reasonable and lawful instruction to place your truck on the wash bay for it to be washed prior to you leaving on delivery. The result was that you incurred a traffic fine because the rear number plate and stop lights were obscured by mud and dust, resulting in the vehicle behind you colliding with the rear of your truck because the driver of this vehicle could not see your stop lights come on when you applied brakes at the traffic light. This has resulted in considerable expense to the Company.

     

    In addition, you were found guilty of a charge of insubordination on 31st March 2010, and for which a written warning was issued and which is still valid.  Clearly, you have either refused, failed or neglected to heed the contents and requirements of that written warning. Management is no longer prepared to tolerate your repeated acts of misconduct. This warning is valid for a period of 12 months, and you should take note that should you fail to take heed of the requirements of this final written warning, then further disciplinary action will follow and should you be found guilty, your dismissal will result.

            

    You are required to refrain completely from committing any further act of misconduct during your employment with this company, as any further offences will not be tolerated. It is repeated that should you be found guilty of having committed any further act of misconduct during your employment with this company, dismissal will result. You must not rely on the expiry of this warning as license to commit further acts of misconduct in relative safety from being dismissed, because the expiry of this warning shall not afford you such protection.

          

    You must clearly understand that your continued employment with this company bow depends entirely on yourself.

     

       

    Yours Faithfully,

    Very Upset Boss.

     

        

    Employee declaration and signature:

                 

    I know and understand the contents of this warning. I have received a copy of this warning.

    Employee signature ________________________ Date : ______________

    Witness Signature : __________________________________

        

    The employee signs this to state that he understands the contents of the warning and that he has received a copy. He is not signing to say that he agrees with it – only that he understands it and has received a copy. Should the employee refuse to sign, then hand him a copy in the presence of the witness, and the witness will certify on the file copy of the warning that a copy was handed to the employee.

             

    (the above final written warning states all the elements of a final written warning, and in addition makes it quite plain to the employee that the next time it is dismissal. It is also made clear that the employee should not form the opinion that after the expiry of this final written warning that he will be free to commit further acts of misconduct in relative safety from being dismissed, because he is warned here that the employer will not tolerate such a situation.)


    Warnings must be clear, concise, and must leave no doubt in the mind of the employeewhat the stance of management is, and no doubt regarding the consequences of failure to rectify the situation.

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