In recent days the newspapers reported the dismissal of Ms Melanie Verwoerd by UNIFEC Ireland. Again this case highlights the importance of following the correct procedure when handling a dismissal or any other disciplinary issue.
If the newspapers are correct then it seems that those important procedures weren’t followed. Sending an e-mail with the message that the employee is dismissed is absolutely not the way to handle this. Not only is it extremely insensitive and impolite but it goes against all disciplinary procedures and codes of practice. Natural justice in such circumstances has to take place, this means that the following should have happened: –
- The employee must be presented with the case against him / her;
- The employee must be allowed to be represented;
- The employee must be permitted and allowed to state their case
- The employer must hear and be seen to hear the case being made
The employer must only form judgement and come up with a final conclusion after having considered all the facts disclosed.
From the newspaper report this doesn’t seem to be what happened. It was reported that Ms Verwoerd received two years salary as compensation which is the maximum compensation under the Unfair Dismissal Act. Does giving the maximum compensation make it alright?! Unfortunately, this normally applies only if employee and company have agreed to such a severance payment with a signed severance agreement which mentions that certain conditions are fulfilled which both parties have agreed and the agreement has been signed by both parties. If there are no specific conditions mentioned and there is no signed agreement then the payment is basically a voluntary payment from the company to the employee and as such doesn’t affect the dismissal case.
This case once again highlights that a dismissal is still not understood by a lot of senior managers and as a result serious mistakes are being made.
It is essential that the Code of Practice on Discipline is followed. If you follow the essential steps of the code of practice then employees can be fairly dismissed for the following reasons: Conduct, Capability and Competence and Redundancy. In cases where the conduct, capability and competence of an employee aren’t up to the required standards the first thing a manager or supervisor needs to do is to give a verbal warning. While giving a warning you must inform the employee regarding the departure of required standards, what action of improvement is required, when will the matter be reviewed again, what time limit is on the warning and what action will be taken if the improvement is not made. As you probably have to prove as a company that the dismissal was fair you need to prove that you gave the warning by putting it in writing as well and preferably you give the warning in the presence of a fellow manager. If the agreed improvements do not take place then you should give a written warning. Again you must inform the employee regarding the departure of required standards, what action of improvement is required, when will the matter be reviewed again, what time limit is on the warning and what action will be taken if the improvement is not made. Again give the written warning in the presence of another manager, as you might have to refute any allegations of unfair behaviour made against you at a later stage. If the necessary improvements do not materialise or other misdemeanours occur during the time limit of the warning, then the Final Written Warning comes into play which is given again in the presence of a fellow manager. You need to explain again what is required from the employee and how long the warning stands. If the necessary improvements do not come about or other wrongdoings happen during the time limit then a disciplinary meeting, as in previous warnings, needs to be conducted in which natural justice has to take place. In coming to a final decision the manager must reflect that the sanction must be appropriate to the charge. If there is a dismissal this must be not seen as excessive, the manager must have approached the hearings fairly and objectively.
It sounds like an impossibility that any employee will let it come to three warnings and still hasn’t got the message, however, it has happened and will happen again tomorrow, so be prepared!
As the employee in a dismissal case is probably going through one of the worst moments in their life, always be polite and respectful to the employee. This is always helpful for both parties.
Unfortunately, as Ms Verwoerd’s case is going be a costly affair the real losers will be the children who UNICEF supports.
If you want to talk about any how to handle a disciplinary issue give me a call at 065 7071933.