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Home Wrong behaviour Discipline What labour legislation to throw at late-coming employees

What labour legislation to throw at late-coming employees

Ivan Israelstam

Late employee

Both sound management principles and labour legislation require you to use firm, swift, fair and progressive disciplinary measures to deal with late-coming employees, as well as other misconduct, before you dismiss the offenders. This means that if you're faced with late-coming employees you must give them warnings as soon as the problem arises. If, and when, the late-coming is repeated, you need to dole out more serious warnings.

After you've given the employee a series of warnings followed by a final warning, and he comes late again, convene a formal disciplinary hearing which will decide if:

  • He is guilty of the most recent alleged late-coming incident, and
  • Dismissal or some other corrective measure is appropriate.

Don't, whatever you do:

  • Close a blind eye to an employee who comes late regularly and then fire him without having given him any warnings, and
  • Give warnings and then don't act on these.

In the case of NCP vs SACWU (1998, 6 BALR 769):

  • The employee was a locomotive driver who arrived late on a number of occasions.
  • He eventually received a final warning for lateness.
  • After this, he was again very late – by a good many hours.
  • Despite this, he was only mildly reprimanded or warned, or not disciplined at all.
  • On a subsequent occasion, he was late yet again and was dismissed.
  • The arbitrator found the dismissal was unfair because:

- The employee hadn't been strongly disciplined for lateness before having received a final warning. This led the employee to believe that the final warning had no effect.

- Under these circumstances, it was wrong to fire the employee who had been led to believe - by the employer's inconsistent and confusing conduct - that lateness and repeated late-coming were not serious offences.

- The employer had given up its duty to correct the employee's late-coming.

- The employer had therefore waived its right to dismiss the employee.

Employers won't dismiss employees because they're scared of the CCMA

Unless there are compelling mitigating circumstances, the logical step after issuing a final warning is normally dismissal. However, employers are too scared to take this final step because they've heard of employees winning similar cases at the CCMA.

For example, in the case of Transwerk vs SATAWU (2000, 8 BALR 993):

  • The employee had received a final warning for coming late.
  • He arrived late for work again and was dismissed on the grounds of his final warning.
  • The arbitrator found the dismissal to be too harsh and reinstated the employee.

This means that, even if you've already given your employee a final warning, you might still not be able to dismiss him for being absent again depending on the circumstances of the case. However, labour legislation doesn't state under which circumstances it's acceptable to dismiss employees who repeat offences after receiving final warnings.