Discipline and dismissal will continue to account for in excess of 80% of all labour disputes country-wide, this year.  This should come as no surprise.

 Ask any supervisor or line manager out which aspect of shop floor labour relations has the greatest impact on them day-to-day; the answer is uniformly ‘disciplinary action’.  Yes, trade union management can be time-consuming and prickly, and unfair labour practice cases rear their head from time to time.  

But it’s the management of discipline at work, and performance management, which typically makes demands of supervisors and management, when it comes to workplace labour relations.

Indeed, in excess of 80% of all labour disputes account for alleged unfair dismissal claims alone.

That said, it follows that when contemplating, or more importantly, prioritising, line management training, special attention should be paid to the conducting of disciplinary hearings and the general management of workplace discipline and employee performance.

Employers continue to lose almost 50% of all unfair dismissal arbitration hearing cases.  SETA accredited discipline training goes a long way to reducing discipline and dismissal risk, and significantly increases the prospects of a dismissal being upheld at the arbitration hearing stage.

Discipline training is targeted at all line managers and supervisors who are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring workplace discipline to ensure a safe and orderly working environment.

SETA accredited training ensures that discipline training material, content and incorporated practical exercises, meet strict quality requirements.

SETA disciplinary hearing accreditation is a rigorous process which accredits successful training providers as a Provider of Education & Training for disciplinary hearing training. A sound Quality Management System is a pre-requisite for SETA accreditation, to ensure that the training material and methodology meets stringent quality requirements.

SAQA unit standard number 10985 (NQF Level 5) is the specifically designated Unit Standard for the Conducting Disciplinary Hearings SETA accredited training programme.

The specified learning outcomes in the SETA accredited discipline workshop include (1) Conduct and manage a hearing, (2) Procedural fairness, (3) Handling non-dismissible offences, (4) Understanding the employer’s burden of proof, (5) Summarising of evidence and (6) Sanction selection.

Course content includes (1) what is misconduct and how is it proved?, (2) What procedures must be followed in a disciplinary hearing?, (3) What are an employee’s rights in a disciplinary hearing?, (4) What are an employer’s rights in a disciplinary hearing?, (5) What role does mitigation play in a disciplinary hearing?, (6) How should a sanction be selected which will meet the requirements of fairness and withstand scrutiny at an arbitration hearing?.  Material also includes time-keeping and attendance offences.

SETA accredited discipline workshops also include role-plays to enable delegates to practice the skills acquired, as well as case studies, self-tests and practical exercises to assess and ensure the transfer of knowledge to delegates.

Such training interventions are facilitated by way of public workshops on occasion, but more commonly via in-house workshops facilitated in such a way as to customise material to align with the employers, disciplinary procedures and codes.

Outside of disciplinary hearing, there has also been increasing demand for training in the management of absenteeism and time-keeping.  Employers should be aiming for no more than a three percent absenteeism rate, and time-keeping should be prioritised.  The costs associated with high absenteeism and poor time-keeping can be prohibitive, even though they are not always immediately obvious. Given recent high profile sexual harassment cases, many employers have sought staff training for insight into our law in so far as it relates to sexual harassment, and insight into related appropriate and inappropriate behaviours.  Training objectives in this instance ordinarily incorporate the promotion of dignified and respectful conduct, and the minimisation of legal and reputational risk.

A more recent trend in training, as we have seen in our own firm, is the evolution of e-learning, which is a cost-effective solution which enables delegates to acquire knowledge via an online multi-media solution which incorporates video content, written content, animation, voice overs, and a multiple choice assessment process.

Yet another field of labour law training which is always commonly a focus, is  Employment Equity Act compliance.

There are many facets to the regulations imposed on employers in regards Employment Equity Act compliance which, if not met, can lead to significant costs, in the form of fines, for non-compliant employers.  

As Mark Twain once said, “continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection”.

Given the ever increasing myriad of employment law regulation, it can reasonably be assumed that employers can’t afford not to train staff on day to day labour relations and employment law compliance issues.

Tony Healy is CEO at Tony Healy & Associates Labour Law Consultants – www.tonyhealy.co.za. Tel: 0861 115 375

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