Policies and Procedures in the workplace

The relationship between the employer and the employee is based on mutual benefits and respect. Clear rules and guidelines ensure that friction and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum, which in turn promotes not only productivity but also a positive working environment.
Labour risk is a huge business risk. To ensure the sustainability and profitability of your business, labour risk needs to be managed in a pro-active manner. The employer must therefore have clear rules and guidelines in the workplace and ensure that every employee is aware of these rules. Rules are implemented in the workplace through the employment contract and policies. The employment contract is the basis of the relationship between the employer and the employee and states the terms and conditions as agreed upon. This cannot be amended without proper consultation with the employee. Therefore, most rules in the workplace are implemented through policies.

What is a policy?

A policy informs employees of the rule(s) in respect of a certain topic. The employer puts these rules in place to ensure the smooth and efficient running of his/her business operations. Policies are not regulated by labour legislation, but define the employer’s own rules, which must be reasonable, for the workplace. We strongly advise employers to implement the following policies in the workplace:

1. Code of conduct

A code of conduct states the employer’s own rules specific to his/her business and industry. These rules should refer to, for example, general rules in the workplace, hygiene, salary advances, safety regulations, use of company property, clothing, etc. It is the employer’s objective with a code of conduct to:
  • maintain discipline within the framework of its procedures in a reasonable, fair and consistent manner with emphasis on progressive discipline;
  • prevent unacceptable behaviour of employees;
  • positively influence unacceptable behaviour; and to
  • maximize productivity within the workplace.


The Alcohol and drug policy aims to guarantee the right of all employees to work in a healthy and safe environment. This policy includes and regulates the use of any substances with an intoxicating and/or narcotic effect. It can also include how a testing procedure may work should there be a suspicion of drug and/or alcohol abuse while on duty. Smoking policies can provide for designated areas where employees may smoke (if at all on the premises) as well as specific times employees are allowed to take smoke breaks.


Leave matters are regulated by labour legislation and refer to annual, sick, family responsibility maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave and/or commissioning parental leave. It is a good idea to incorporate requirements to apply for leave, the amount of days allowed for the specific leave type as well as whether any evidence needs to be provided in order to be able to gain the specific form of leave into leave policies. Take care that the policy is not less favourable than the applicable legislation which should be adhered to. Reasonable requirements to apply for leave or documentation for the approval of the leave can be included in the policy.

4. Cell phone policy

A cell phone policy regulates the use of cell phones in the workplace to ensure a safe and productive environment. This policy can limit private as well as company cell phone use. It may also include what the result would be should there be non compliance in terms of the policy for e.g. a warning could be issued should there be non compliance with the policy.


A grievance policy is a set of procedures designed to address and resolve complaints or grievances within the work place. It typically outlines the steps an employee can take to report issues, the process for investigating complaints, and the potential resolutions or actions that can be taken to address the grievance.
These policies are often used to pro-actively manage labour risk. Other policies include a harassment policies, an internet and e-mail policy, company vehicle use policy or even a work from home policy.. The employer can amend policies when necessary although it is vital to ensure that employees are informed of these policies, as well as any changes made to the policies, preferably in writing.
Policies and procedures are a proactive way to minimise the employer’s risk when it comes to Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) matters. A Commissioner at the CCMA will always enquire:
  • Was there a rule in the workplace?
  • Is there proof that the employee was aware of this rule?
  • Did the employee act according to the rule?
  • Was there progressive warnings (according to the offence)
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A procedure is an established or official way of handling a situation, put in place to inform the employees and employers alike, of the necessary steps to take when a certain incident occurs.
We strongly advise employers to implement the following procedures in the workplace:


The disciplinary code serves as a guideline for employers of what the appropriate sanction is for certain offences. These sanctions may be adjusted depending on the circumstances and merits of each case. Progressive discipline plays a vital role here and should be applied, e.g. in the case of reporting late for duty:
  • First offence: written warning
  •  Second offence: serious written warning
  • Third offence: final written warning
  • Fourth offence: dismissal
Keep in mind that the degree of sanction will differ depending on the nature of the employee’s misconduct. It is very important to note that an employee cannot be dismissed under any circumstances without holding a disciplinary hearing. Offences that are common cause and/or cause disturbance within the workplace do not have to be included in the code of conduct but are listed on the disciplinary code. These offences may include but are not limited to theft, fraud, offences related to sexual harassment as well as participation in unprotected strike action.


When an employee is unsatisfied with any disciplinary sanction (a warning or dismissal), the appeal procedure informs the employee on what grounds he/she can appeal on within the relevant timeframes and the person responsible for dealing with the appeal. This is an internal procedure to try and resolve matters before the matter is referred to the CCMA.


When a new employee is appointed, policies and procedures are implemented together with his/her employment contract. When employees are already employed, policies and procedures can be implemented in various ways:
  • Have a meeting with all the employees to discuss the policy or procedure. Take note to complete a signed attendance register to prove that employees are aware of the policy or procedure.
  • Circulate the policy or procedure via e-mail or per hand – take note to have proof of receipt.
  • Display the policy or procedure on a communal notice board accessible to all employees, e.g. in a canteen, changing rooms, etc. where employees are sure to see it.
It is important to note that where a dispute arises with regards to an offence in terms of a policy, the onus will be on the employer to prove that the employee was aware or could have reasonably been aware of the policy.

Contact the LWO for any advice or assistance!



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