Employees are expected to follow a reasonable instruction given to them by their employers. The important word here is “reasonable”. An employer’s instructions are considered to be reasonable is the employee is asked to perform tasks:
- Which they are capable and qualified to perform;
- Which fall between the broader spectrum of their responsibilities;
- Which, except for emergencies, fall within their normal working hours.
There are various categories of this type of misconduct:
- Where an employee refuses to do the work required of them and does so without arguing about it and the consequences are minor. An example if an employee who refuses to sweep the floor.
- Where an employee refuses to do the work required of them and does so without arguing about it and the consequences are major. For example, an employee who refuses to check that his vehicle has oil in the engine and as a result, the engine seizes.
- An employee who refuses to perform and who does so both arguing with the employer and also in the presence of other employees. Here refusal is combined with insubordination.
- Where an employee refuses to follow a reasonable instruction, ideally this must be witnessed.
Refusal to follow a reasonable instruction is misconduct and must be treated as such. In the same way that we discussed disciplinary procedures and appropriate measures for negligence in a previous article, a disciplinary hearing must be held, during which guilt is assigned and appropriate measures are decided upon.
In instances where the refusal is not serious, subsequent to a disciplinary enquiry, the employee must be warned that continued refusal will prejudice their future employment.
It is important that an employer assess ALL of the facts and circumstances leading to and surrounding the refusal in order to determine the appropriate penalty.
Where the consequences of the refusal are serious, such as severe financial prejudice to the employer, it may warrant a final warning or alternatively dismissal.