Warnings given to employees are meant to be corrective in nature. These should be given in a way that attempts to try and change the employee and get them to act in a better way both for the organisation and the employee’s benefit.

Issuing warnings is not guided by Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) the Code of Good Practice: Dismissal. These pieces of legislation deal mainly with dismissals. The issue of warnings is dealt with in the case of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa obo members / Kirk Marketing (Pty) Ltd – (2017)26 CCMA 6.3.1 also reported at [2017] 6 BALR 672 (CCMA).

The company’s employees refused to complete their annual evaluation forms and were consequently issued with final written warnings. After this, the employees again refused and were issued with a further “blanket” final warning. The employees argued that both warnings were unfair.

The CCMA Commissioner noted that the employees had not challenged the requirement of completing the evaluation forms. They had been given ample time to fill these in. When the first warning was issued, the forms had not been completed. Only after the union’s intervention the forms were completed.

The Commissioner found that the second warning did not amount to “double jeopardy”. The employees were given a second warning because their defiance continued after the first. However, the second “blanket” warning was too wide because it would mean that the employee could be dismissed if they committed any misconduct.

The Commissioner ruled that the warnings did not constitute an unfair labour practice but directed the employer to delete the word “blanket” from the second warning.

Warnings can be given in the form of notification or notices. Sometimes a letter to an employee describing what they had done wrong and warning them of the further consequences is sufficient as a warning letter.

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