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The Most Common Offences Employees Are Dismissed For

The Most Common Offences Employees Are Dismissed For

Nozipho Mvulane

Misconduct is one of the most common ways in which employees can receive warnings and even, ultimately dismissal.

The term “misconduct” in labour relations in South Africa can embody a variety of acts and omissions. It is almost impossible for an employer to be aware and cater for all of them. It is thus, important for an employer to have a Disciplinary Policy and Procedures as well as a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics Policy. Such policies are important, but cannot be exhaustive in nature to list every possible offence. It is important that when these policies are being drafted, they take into account the most common forms of misconduct, but also alert employees that this is not a definitive list and employees need to use their discretion when they conduct their day-to-day activities.

Misconduct in the workplace

The most common forms of misconduct are:

  • abscondment, absenteeism and desertion
  • theft, dishonesty and fraud
  • assault, fights and threats made to fellow employees
  • alcohol or substance abuse
  • racism
  • social media
  • insubordination
  • sexual harassment
  • corruption and bribery
  • negligence in carrying out duties

Workplace policies and procedures

Employers need to have policies and procedures that adequately address some (if not all) of these offences. This could be done in a single policy or a variety of smaller policies. It is important that employees are informed and aware of what the business will not tolerate and what offences carry which sentence. This could be done during the induction and onboarding stage, periodically during the year or by having training sessions and seminars with employees.

Employees need to be aware of and understand these policies. This makes it easier for employers to discipline their employees as well as for employees to understand what is permissible conduct in the workplace as well as the applicable sanctions. It is also important that employers apply these policies consistently within their businesses to avoid any claims of unfairness and bias.

Consistency in workplace discipline

It is all great for an employer to have these policies and for employees to be aware and understand them; but it is equally important that employers enforce these policies and procedures in a fair and consistent way. One of the major problems with disciplinary enquiries for misconduct is that employers do not enforce these policies consistently.

Where an employer chooses to enforce a policy, this should be done all the time for the same or similar offence. Where this has not happened, the employer should have very good reasons. Where there is no consistent application of these policies, there will be a problem in maintaining and enforcing workplace discipline.

For assistance in establishing and drafting these forms, as well as maintaining and enforcing workplace discipline, please feel free to contact us on

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