South Africa is a beautifully multi-coloured, multi-cultural, multi-lingual country, comprising of people hailing from all walks of life. We certainly are a Rainbow Nation in every sense. It’s one thing to acknowledge and celebrate our eclectic melting pot. But in some cases that’s not enough. Where appropriate, and particularly in situations where justice demands it, other people’s cultural differences require more than just lip-service. One such example is in the employment relationship.
I’m going to hold a disciplinary hearing to hopefully dismiss a staff member. She is demanding that I provide a Xhosa interpreter for her during the hearing. Is this really necessary? Sure, her English isn’t great but she can understand it.
Yes, it is necessary. Your employee has a right to an interpreter during the disciplinary enquiry. If you fail to provide one this may be grounds for her to challenge her dismissal (assuming there’s sufficient evidence to dismiss her) on the basis of procedural unfairness.
South Africans over the last few years have seen, heard and witnessed some pretty awful stuff. The hate-fueled vitriol spewing forth from some people has indeed been mind-boggling. Sadly, it has become evident that there remain an unfortunate number of racists in South Africa – across the colour spectrum. Not that any of this is news to any of us. Between our media and our social media, racists are being named-and-shamed with regular monotony. But racists should beware – it’s not just their good name that’s on the line. Even if the racist act isn’t deemed offensive enough to earn a jail sentence, their careers could well be on the line.
I’ve just been sent a screenshot of a comment that one of my employees made on Facebook. This comment is just horrible and offensive and clearly racist. It is completely the opposite of what my company stands for. Can I do anything about it? Like, dismiss her (preferably)? I don’t have any social media policy, or any other policy for that matter. It’s one of those things I mean to do but never get around to. What worries me is that anyone who goes onto this person’s profile will be able to see that my company employs her. I just don’t need that kind of media attention right now.
Why do your employees work for you? Be honest. Is it your boundless generosity? The awesome working environment? The character-building challenge of the projects? The invaluable experience? The office manager’s sparkling personality? Donuts on a Friday? The free coffee? All of the above? Let us not sugar-coat the truth. The real reason why employees work is for that all-important pay-cheque they get at the end of each month. And in a handful of cases, there are some employees who wouldn’t turn their noses up at the opportunity to tweak their take-home if they thought they could get away with it. Such an action may not be the wisest though, because dismissal may swiftly follow.
I’m reasonably certain that one of my employees has been stealing from me, but I haven’t been able to catch her red-handed. I was thinking of simply firing her and sucking up the payment order from the CCMA. I’ve heard she can’t claim more than 12 months salary. I’d rather pay that than risk more shrinkage. The stock she’s been stealing is expensive.
The antics of the unpopular president in a certain country across the Atlantic has ushered in much commentary about his Reality TV Show, The Apprentice. Where his signature line, “You’re Fired!” has no doubt tempted more than a few frustrated employers, who would dearly love to employ the same tactics. But the few that do will generally find themselves on the losing end of the resultant court action.
Most employers have encountered the curious phenomenon of the mysteriously absent employee. They’re not at their station at 8 am. By midday, you’ve left multiple calls on their voicemail. And to get through the day you’re forced to shuffle your staff around to pick up the slack. But when this happens the next day, and the next day, and the next, what then? What can you do, if anything, when an AWOL employee magically reappears?
An unfortunate fact of the South African labour environment is that the employer-employee relationship is not always a bed of roses. Occasionally you need to deal with thorny issues that inevitably arise from time to time. Like the employee that sleeps on duty, swears at customers, persists in arriving late and leaving early, obstinately refuses to follow instructions, blatantly disregards company policies, commits theft, __________ fill in the blank! Difficult though it may be, employers are cautioned against acting on a knee-jerk. Admittedly it is tempting to yell “You’re Fired!” and instruct security to boot your employee out the door. But unless the thought of dealing with a CCMA action appeals to you, a more tempered approach is advised. Here are a few guidelines for when you find yourself having to discipline a wayward employee.
If you plan on suspending employees, make sure you do so lawfully. This includes having good cause, and following a proper procedure. Because there’s no guarantee that a suspended employee will skulk off quietly, tail between their legs, to mope around at home while you complete your investigations and dig up the dirt on them. Your suspended employee would in all likelihood be using their time a little more productively. Like scuttling off to the Labour Court and returning with some well-trained legal artillery.