The power of regular consultations

“As a leader, you must consistently drive effective communication. Meetings must be deliberate and intentional – your organisational rhythm should purpose over habit and effectiveness over efficiency”

Chris Fussel

Consultation necessitate open and honest two-way discussions between employers and employees. Consultations is a powerful tool that employers can use to establish a productive and positive working environment as employees will realise that the employer is prepared to listen to constructive suggestions. Involving employees in decision making also ensures that employees have a better understanding for the employer’s operational requirements and how sustainability can affect job security for the employees.

Types of consultations in the workplace

Regular consultations

Regular consultations with employees, individually or in a group, creates a platform for employees to voice their thoughts and ideas, as well as to discuss any specific needs. During these meetings the employer has the opportunity to communicate the following:

  • employer’s expectations and fixed standard in the workplace,
  • the employee’s performance,
  • the employee’s role in the business and
  • the impact the employee has on the business as a whole.

Progressive discipline

Progressive discipline and changes in behavior. The aim of discipline in the workplace is to correct and improve behaviour through redress, consultations and warnings, rather than to punish or dismiss an employee. When the employer notices a change in behaviour of an employee, the first step is to consult with the employee and confirm the desired behaviour. It is important to give the employee the opportunity to present more information and explain the situation form his/her point of view.

The employer must have clear rules and guidelines in the workplace and ensure that every employee is aware of these rules. It is vital that employers have a disciplinary code that lists offences with the appropriate sanctions to use when rules and procedures are not followed. Dismissal should always be the last option. In cases of severe misconduct, the employer can proceed directly to a disciplinary hearing (take note to follow the correct procedure).

Formal consultations

Various pieces of labour legislation creates forums whereby it is compulsory for the employer and employees to engage in consultations. These formal consultations include:

  • any changes made to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment. Take note that no unilateral changes can be made under any circumstances. This includes:
  • retrenchment – dismissal of employees for reasons based on operational requirements.
  • poor work performance
  • incapacity – the inherent inability of an employee to perform work to the employer’s established standard in terms of quality and quantity due to ill health or injury, which can be temporary or permanent
  • implementing short time
  • exemptions form any collective agreement or any law
  • compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). The OHSA applies to all employers, but employers with more that 20 employees must appoint health and safety representatives and hold regular consultations with regards to compliance
  • compliance with the Employment Equity Act (“EEA”). The EEA applies to all employers, but “designated employers” have additional obligations. This includes to establish an Employment Equity Committee and to hold regular consultations with regards to compliance.

In conclusion

Inadequate communication in the workplace can lead to unhappiness, lack of loyalty and unproductivity. Apart form workplace forums, employees have no other means than through line managers and supervisors, to bring their concerns, ideas and suggestions to the attention of the employer. If properly constituted, the workplace forums can play a vital role in the workplace. The relationship between the employer and employee is based on respect. Clear communication ensures that friction and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum. This will in turn promote not only productivity but also a positive working environment.

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LWO Regsadviseur - LWO Legal Advisor

LWO Regsadviseur - LWO Legal Advisor

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