18 Apr

18 April 2024

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) states that warnings are meant to progressively teach workers the employer’s expectations for their behaviour and productivity while providing them an opportunity to improve. Employers often misuse disciplinary warnings or don’t use them because they need to understand how the law permits them to use them. A written warning is given   to a worker when:

  • A previously verbal warning has failed to produce the desired result, therefore necessitating stricter action,
  • or when the same conduct  for which a verbal warning when been repeated more than once,
  • 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 than a verbal warning.

It must be emphasised that a written warning should only be given when a fair process has been followed, in which the accused worker has been given a chance to address the allegations made against him or her.

What is a disciplinary warning?

An oral or written disciplinary warning is a notification from the employer to the employee that their conduct is unacceptable and that if they continue to fall short of the expected standards, additional adverse action may follow the issuance of an oral or written warning Instead, it serves as an initial warning that further remedial action may occur if unacceptable conduct is repeated.

When is it appropriate to give a warning?

When it is determined that an employee has committed a less serious offense (one with comparatively minor possible consequences), it is usually fair to give them a warning. The severity of the offence and the existence of prior, legally-mandated warnings determine the type of warning (oral, written, or final) that should be employed.

When is a warning inappropriate?

In cases where the offense is minor, counselling could be preferable to warnings. For instance, a gentle reprimand or counselling session will be sufficient and require less time from the employer if an employee arrives at work five minutes late for the first time. Further discipline may be necessary in certain situations, such as those involving significant offences or where a final warning has already been issued and a warning is unlikely to have the desired outcome.

Can disciplinary warnings be cancelled? 

Some employers permit their employees to appeal warnings under their disciplinary codes and policies. The employee may, with the assistance of his/her union, refer a dispute as an unfair labour practice described in the LRA as an application of a sanction short of dismissal to the appropriate bargaining council or CCMA. The arbitrator can withdraw the warning if they determine it to be unfair.

UASA encourages its members and all workers to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations contained in employer’s policies and are applied in the workplace. If an employee faces certain challenges that may affect their expected conduct at work, they are advised always to communicate and be transparent with their employers. In some scenarios, solutions are possible without a warning for misconduct.

Ref: www.labourguide.co.za                                                       www.uasa.org.za


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