Workplace policies are a specific set of rules or procedures that are followed within a company. These could contain detailed procedures that must be followed when performing daily duties and responsibilities, a health and safety procedure used in the event of an emergency or even a set of general rules that must be complied with, such as a dress code etc.
In Shoprite Checkers vs Thokiso the employer introduced a rule that required employees to declare goods that they have in their possession with security. The purpose of this rule was to assist in preventing theft. In this case, the employee had a roll-on deodorant in her possession which had not been declared. It was her version that she had forgotten to declare it. She pleaded guilty and was subsequently dismissed. After the dismissal was upheld at the CCMA it was later referred to the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) who declared her dismissal to be unfair for a number of reasons which go beyond the scope of this article, but one pertinent point that was addressed in this case was that the LAC found no evidence that proved that this policy was known to the employee.
Therefore, if an employee has not complied with a policy and is subsequently charged for the same, the employer will be faced with the task of proving that the employee knew and understood the policy.
It is insufficient to print out a new policy and merely stick it to the notice board. An employer is required to take sufficient steps to ensure that a clear policy is communicated to all employees in a language easily understood by everyone and is thereafter consistently applied.
There are 5 recommended steps to a failsafe implementation of a policy:
Arrange a meeting with all staff members to discuss the policy. Make sure to arrange a second meeting with anyone who is absent on the day of the first meeting.
Take an attendance register of all staff members present at the meeting. Set out the topic of discussion at this meeting clearly at the top of this attendance register.
Discuss the policy with all staff members as well as the consequences of not complying with the policy (possible disciplinary action). Be sure to provide an opportunity to ask any clarifying questions to ensure that all staff members know and understand the contents and purpose of this policy.
All staff members should sign the policy to confirm that they know and understand the contents thereof.
Provide the employees with a copy of the policy, this can either be given to them or stuck on the wall where they can all see it on a daily basis (or even both).
Should an employee thereafter breach this policy, the employer will have proof that the employee attended a meeting to discuss the policy, understood the policy and was also reminded of the policy on a daily basis and therefore the breach of the policy was done as a result of willful/negligent behaviour.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victoria Thompson completed her LLB degree with the University of South Africa while working for SEESA as a legal assistant. Upon obtaining her degree she was promoted to a SEESA Labour Legal Advisor.