Codes in the workplace

I am working on a disciplinary code for a client after having prepared an acceptable use policy for its IT infrastructure as well as an incapacity policy and a couple things occurred to me in the process.  Firstly, it is a really good idea to have the following policies in place in your company:

  • disciplinary code;
  • incapacity policy;
  • acceptable use policy governing use of your IT infrastructure;
  • grievance procedures; and
  • sexual harassment policy.

There are other policies and codes you can implement but these are a pretty good starting point.  You will find that approaches to these policies will vary.  The policies that my client is replacing are fairly fixed and specific.  They provide for specific forms of discipline for specific offences and clearly set out the precise procedure to be followed when invoking those policies.  To me this approach is limiting because it is so inflexible and because it is unable to take into account changing circumstances.

It is for this reason that I advocate a neutral approach to policies and procedures.  The acceptable use policy is a good example of this.  In drafting this policy for my client I adopted a technology-neutral approach so that the policy can accommodate changing technologies and new ways of abusing those technologies.  This results in a policy that is based on certain fundamental principles which allow the policy to remain relevant even as circumstances change.

I am adopting a similar approach in the disciplinary code I am working on at the moment.  Rather than specify which offences are serious and which are not, I set out the basic principles which govern how offences will be dealt with and what factors are taken into account in the process.  I also don’t specify which forms of discipline must be applied to certain offences but rather set out the forms of discipline which may be used to address an offence.  My intention is to emulate the technology-neutral approach of the acceptable use policy and give my client a code that is flexible, relevant and which can also be implemented in a substantively and procedurally fair manner by my client.

The Department of Labour has published a series of Codes of Good Practice on a range of topics from dismissal to HIV/AIDS to disability and so on.  These are very important resources when preparing policies and procedures and should be regarded as the standard against which to measure your policies and procedures.  These Codes of Good Practice have been published in terms of the Labour Relations Act (as amended) and should be taken seriously.  You can view these Codes on the CCMA’s website and the Department of Labour’s website.

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