Updated: Mar 26

Disciplinary and Performance Management of Employees Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

The Corona Virus outbreak has left many businesses scrambling to put into place health and safety measures that are in compliance with developing guidelines and which match their business needs. Government, business and labour have shown courage and will be working toward ensuring the stability of businesses and most importantly, employment. These measures will hopefully alleviate some concerns.

However, in these times, the labour law framework remains binding on employment relationships. The long-term risks for non-compliance and a failure to treat employee discussions with care are severe. It is not a time to become lax in the fair workplace policies and practices; to do otherwise would lead to the potential abuse by employees and employers who seek to opportunistically make gains. MW is able to ensure that all your workplace discussions are done with the required care, independence and fairness.

The focus thus far has rightly been on the health and safety of employees as required by the OSH Act. In most cases, employees will require a temporary health absence, which will be covered by the sick leave provisions of the BCEA and existing company policies. In instances where employees become more permanently ill, the normal consultative processes will apply. Employers must ensure that the legal requirements for ill health are complied with even under these circumstances.

The financial and operational consequences for a number of businesses have already been affected and require consultation with employees on adapted work arrangements. These adapted work arrangements, which may include remote working, limited working or no working; should be done with careful consideration and clear policy directives. In instances where businesses or parts of business are unsustainable, the need to follow the legal consultative processes is necessary. This will ensure that the normal rights and obligations of employers and employees in respect of discipline and performance management remain intact. The management of discipline and performance however becomes a lot more complex as businesses create remote workplaces. Even where businesses remain intact the current climate may lend to a softening of the management of discipline and performance. This would be unwise and will undermine the stability of businesses and the continuity of work.

It is thus imperative that employees buy in and then are held accountable to a higher degree of responsibility in respect of their conduct and performance. Businesses will need to consult with their employees and adopt an emergency disciplinary and performance protocol. This protocol must be constructed with careful thought and should be designed to be a sustainable measure.

Emergency Protocols for discipline and performance management may specify the following:

  1. The employees new work structure;

  2. Any remote resources provided for the duration of the change and a clear responsibility for the employee to take responsibility for such resources;

  3. The restructuring of job descriptions for a limited period to ensure that the business remains stable;

  4. The deliverables (standards) expected, with the understanding that these deliverables may change at any time based on the needs and circumstances of the business;

  5. The method of work instructions and delivery of work;

  6. The method of communication and expected response times;

  7. Clarity of times of contact and flexible work deliverables;

  8. Method of measuring and securing work progress;

  9. Utilisation of part of the time to develop online skills and knowledge on areas that require employee development;

  10. A commitment to abide by the rules of conduct even while working under new conditions;

  11. Identifying rules and breaches that would under the current circumstances be regarded as severe and deserving of termination of employment (for example false reporting of illness, abuse of time, spreading false information, stealing information; failure to abide by instructions etc);

  12. Disciplinary and performance processes must be adapted to ensure compliance with the LRA and the health and safety guidelines. Compliance is possible and necessary under such circumstances.

The current crisis raises a heightened emotion within workplaces. It is in these times that competent independent facilitators, mediators and enquiry chairpersons must be used. MW has a pool of highly trained, experienced and adaptable professionals to help you. The independence, adaptability and professionalism of MW associates will enhance your ability to cope through these times of crisis. Give us a call for us to help you implement your emergency protocols and facilitate or chair your processes. We are able to run any process remotely and within your environment with full compliance of the health and safety requirements. We are also able to conduct online training sessions for your staff while they are at home on a wide array of areas. Our plea to you is to support us to support you!

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