Discipline and Dismissal


I receive large numbers of e-mails, on almost a daily basis, from employers complaining about employee behaviour in the workplace. "Some of my employees take up to 2 hours smoke breaks during the day. Now my non-smoking employees are complaining that they want the same amount of time off - what can I do?" "Telephone abuse in my company is rife - in one instance we timed the employee - she spent 11 hours on private telephone calls in one week. What can I do?"

"My employees waste lots of time making and receiving private calls and SMS messages on their private cellphones. How can I stop them from doing this?" Seriously – I kid you not. These examples are genuine e-mails. I must be honest - when I see an e-mail like that, my first reaction is that I should simply delete the e-mail without even bothering to reply. I genuinely cannot understand (and have no sympathy for) the employer who has absolutely no rules and regulations in place to regulate the behaviour of his employees, and then complains when they misbehave and take advantage of the situation!!

These are not questions involving labour law - complex or otherwise. These are questions to which the answers are very basic and very common sense. My first reaction is really to answer the e-mail by saying "Mr employer, you must do what you like - your employees are doing this because you allow them to do it - if you can't control your employees and manage your business properly, it is your problem." The bottom line is that such a situation boils down to nothing more than bad management.

Management have only themselves to blame. Am I being unreasonable? Am I being unfair? I don't think so! I can't always tell you the sweet stuff. I can't always tell you only the nice things that you want to hear. I must also tell you what you need to hear. I would be failing in my duty if I did not tell employers where they are going wrong. The employer is not always right!! Sometimes he is horribly wrong, and is entirely responsible for his own misfortune!!


So – if the cap fits – wear it!!

Quite obviously, such e-mails are sent by employers who don't know how to manage their employees behaviour in the workplace, and from employers who have no rules and regulations in place to regulate the behaviour of the employees in the workplace. The importance of your Disciplinary Code and your policies and procedures cannot be over emphasised. The answer to problems like these is extremely simple - advise all employees in writing that such practices are prohibited, and that any breach of the policy will result in disciplinary action which may lead to dismissal - finish and klaar !!

For any employer to try and operate a business without having in place a Disciplinary Code and policies and procedures to regulate the behaviour of his employees on the workplace (and off the workplace for that matter) is criminal. Such an employer deserves every problem that the employees throw at him. There is no law against any employer making rules and regulations to control the behaviour of his employees -  rules and regulations stipulating what employees are permitted to do and what they are not permitted to do on or off the workplace.

In fact, the Code of Good Practice – Dismissal stipulates that employers should have such rules and regulations in place. The employer does not need the approval of the employees before he can institute such rules and regulations, and nor does he need the approval of any trade union. He also does not need such approval to amend any existing rule or policy. Provided that the rules are reasonable, lawful and fair, in terms of all the circumstances and the employer's operational requirements, the employer can institute whatever rules he wishes to.


Employees have no right to tell any employer what they will and will not do during time that the employer is paying them for – or, for that matter, in some instances even during time that he is not paying them for. There is another and very important aspect to having proper a disciplinary code and policies and procedures in place.


It can save your bacon at the CCMA!!!

Did you know that??

Whilst your policies and procedures may not be law - if they are fair, reasonable, and lawful, you will seldom if ever be found in procedural unfairness in a CCMA dispute by following your own procedure. And conversely, if you do not follow your own policies, you very well probably will be found in procedural unfairness in a CCMA dispute. Further advantages are that your rules and regulations will create consistency and certainty in the mind of the employee - he will know exactly where he stands, your job will be made for easier, and as the cherry on the top you will probably get far more productivity out of your employees.

Employers unite!!  Take charge and control the behaviour of your employees!! Don't let your employees manage you!!! The introduction of fair, reasonable and lawful policies and procedures, and proper control of your employees, is as good as money in the bank!!


For further advice, or assistance on compiling and implementing policies and procedures, contact

Case Law Summaries and Articles


Can employees be dismissed for refusing to accept new terms and conditions of employment?

Can an employer dismiss employees because they refuse to agree to a change to their terms and conditions of employment? An initial answer may be, “yes”.

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Escape route: “Resignation with immediate effect”

The latest case in the ‘disciplining employees who have resigned with immediate effect’ saga has brought about more uncertainty as to whether an employee who resigns with immediate effect shortly before a disciplinary hearing can avoid disciplinary action and subsequent dismissal.

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Freedom of expression or incitement to commit an offence? A constitutional challenge

On 4 July 2019, the North Gauteng High Court handed down judgment in the case of The EFF and other v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and other (87638/2017 and 45666/2017) in which the EFF and Julius Malema (the applicants) sought to have s18(2)(b) of the Riotous Assemblies Act, No 17 of 1956 (Riotous Act) declared unconstitutional.

Read More >>>


Consolidated, comprehensive or general final written warnings

Regarding dismissal, according to the Code of Good Practice, “the courts have endorsed the concept of corrective or progressive discipline. This approach regards the purpose of discipline as a means for employees to know and understand what standards are required of them.

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