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Mag ek my prokureur saambring na ‘n dissiplinêre verhoor?

Mag ek my prokureur saambring na ‘n dissiplinêre verhoor?

According to item 4 of the Code of Good Practice (“the code”), the definition of dismissal contained in Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (“LRA”) states that, when an employee is charged with misconduct, “[t]he employee should be allowed… the assistance of a trade union representative or fellow employee”. However, what happens in the instance when you do not belong to a trade union, or alternatively, a fellow employee is unwilling to assist you?

‘n Werknemer het nie outomaties die reg tot regsverteenwoordiging tydens ‘n dissiplinêre verhoor nie. Die Werknemer het egter wel die reg om , voor die aanvang van die verhoor , ‘n formele versoek te rig aan die Voorsittende Beampte synde vir die toelating van ‘n regsverteenwoordiger van die Werknemer se keuse en vir sy / haar eie rekening. Voormelde versoek kan dan deur die Voorsittende Beampte oorweeg word en toegelaat word.

When exercising such discretion, the presiding officer should take certain factors into account, and the decision in respect of such an application is final, although the employee can still refer a dispute to the CCMA or Bargaining Council for procedural unfairness.

These are the factors to be considered:

  • The company policy;
  • The serious nature and complexity of the matter (whether it is in respect of a point of law or the merits of the matter);
  • The potential severity of the consequences of an adverse finding;
  • The potential adverse effects on both parties, if legal representation is allowed in comparison to when it is not allowed.

Wat gebeur egter as die Werkgewer bloot weier om die aansoek te oorweeg of as die dissiplinêre beleid van die betrokke Werkgewer  regsverteenwoordiging verbied?

In the case of MEC: Department of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism: Northern Province vs Schoon Godwilly Mahumani, the Supreme Court of Appeal held that even when the employer’s disciplinary policy prohibits the use of an external representative, it may be allowed in certain circumstances. The court held that the employer’s policy must be viewed as a guideline, which may be departed from under appropriate circumstances. Therefore, ultimately leaving it to the presiding officers to decide.

In Molope v Mbha en ander het die Arbeidshof bevind, dat hoewel die ontslag van ‘n werknemer wat van die ongemagtigde gebruik van fondse aangekla is, wesenlik billik was, was die afdanking prosedureel onbillik. Die werknemer het voor die dissiplinêre verhoor versoek om die genoemde verhoor uit te stel, ten einde ‘n eksterne verteenwoordiger te verkry, aangesien ‘n mede-werknemer, wie ingestem het om die beskuldigde by te staan, kort voor die verhoor besluit het om nie meer van hulp te wees nie. Die werkgewer het egter die uitstel geweier. Note that the presiding officer’s decision on the admission of legal representation, is not final. However, should the employee wish to appeal against this decision, the employee still has the option of referring the dispute to the CCMA or Bargaining Council for procedural unfairness upon the completion of the disciplinary process.  Therefore, should employers not disclose the option to use an external representative, via their policies or the notice of disciplinary hearing, it does not preclude employees from seeking the assistance of such representative. In the light of the above, it must still be kept in mind that it is not illegal for an employer to have a policy prohibiting assistance from external representatives. However, should the employee wish to make use of external legal representation, the request must be duly considered based on the aforementioned factors, as opposed to a mere outright denial of the request.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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