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Negligence as a Disciplinary IssueNegligence is defined as the failure to act with the prudence that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances; or the trait of neglecting responsibilities and lacking concern (Farlex, Princeton University). According to Oxford Dictionary, it is the “failure to take proper care over something.”

Negligence in an employee is frustrating at best but can have serious implications in the employment relationship.

There are two levels of negligence that must first be identified

  1. Petty negligence (negligence which does not hold serious financial implications for the employer), which is a minor transgression. For example, failure to count stock properly. This can also be serious negligence, especially where theft is involved and the failure to count means the failure to notify the employer of the fact that stock has been stolen.
  2. Loss of, or damage to the property of the employer or any of its clients through negligence is serious misconduct. For example, if an employee neglects to do any of the safety checks that he/she has been trained to do on a vehicle/machine belonging to the employer and the vehicle/machine breaks down, this is serious misconduct. If it is suspected that this negligence was intentional (didn’t just forget, but perhaps was anxious to get off work early) then this would be considered very serious misconduct.  

Any and all transgressions / misconduct by an employee must be met with proper disciplinary procedures and thereafter appropriate measures. A disciplinary hearing must be held, during which guilt is assigned and appropriate measures are decided upon.

In the event of a very serious transgression, an employee may be suspended temporarily pending the conclusion of a disciplinary enquiry. This suspension is NOT a disciplinary measure and the purpose of such suspension is solely to protect the employer against further damage that may be caused by having the employee in the workplace.

For minor transgressions, a verbal warning is appropriate for a first offense and thereafter, a written warning, a final written warning and after a 4th transgression, dismissal.

For gross negligence, a final written warning or dismissal (depending on the severity of the negligence) is appropriate even for a first offense.

If you require assistance with disciplinary issues in your workplace, please do not hesitate to contact us on (033) 266 6170 or mail rob@mccarthylaw.co.za.