It often happens when a matter is referred to the CCMA that specific issues in dispute are due to miscommunication or misinterpretation between the parties. This can be easily avoided by giving new employees proper training in their duties and responsibilities.

Though challenging at the time, never underestimate the importance of defining roles and responsibilities within a company. It could be the case that certain employees “wear several different hats”, completing jobs outside of their job description. Unfortunately, this can lead to a great deal of confusion within a company, especially when leadership responsibilities are not correctly assigned. Clearly defining roles and expectations can positively impact the company, particularly regarding team projects.

For example, a restaurant server’s responsibilities will differ from those of a machine operator in the mining industry. Employee roles depend on the scope of the job as defined by the employer’s manual and training and as explained when the employee accepts the position. It is the company’s responsibility to provide all relevant information about the requirements of a job during a new employee’s onboarding process. Employees must listen, read, and absorb this information to prepare for their employment with the company. It is equally important to inform and train employees on the company’s disciplinary code.

In an unfair dismissal case at CCMA, the employer will have to prove, among other aspects, the following:

  • That there was a clear rule that was broken which existed at the time of the offence;
  • That the rule that was broken was known by the employee;
  • That such a rule is consistently applied within the workplace.

In the case of Moolman vs Nu Vision Aluminium (Pty) Ltd (2008, 9 BALR 805), an employee was instructed to resign after the employer found out that the employee had been doing private work outside of working hours. The arbitrator found that the instruction given to the employee amounted to dismissal and that the employee had not been made aware of any rule prohibiting the carrying out of private work outside of working hours. The arbitrator further ruled that the dismissal was unfair.

This highlights the importance that employers should provide adequate training to employees on the workplace rules and the disciplinary code of conduct and keep such proof if a former employee claims he was not made aware of such a rule. Employers often fail to give the onboarding process enough attention and later regret it.

Employers can benefit by focusing more on the following:

  • Giving new employees sufficient training on their duties, tasks, and responsibilities;
  • Ensuring that new employees understand to whom they report;
  • Where an employee’s role changes over time, it is good practice for management to redefine the scope of the employee’s duties and responsibilities;
  • Ensuring that there is a well-drafted disciplinary code of conduct in place;
  • Providing training to all employees on their duties and responsibilities about the disciplinary code of conduct and keeping a record of same;
  • To consistently apply all rules of the company.

Article By: Su-Mari Kemp
Dispute Resolution Official – CEO Kuruman