Open Source Startup: Disciplinary Policy Template

Welcome to Chapter 7 of Open Source Startup: Disciplinary Policy Template. For a table of contents, head over to the Introduction here

Ah. South African Labour Law. We all know very well why it's as employee-friendly as it is. Because capitalism can be nasty and there are plenty of people that need to be protected. But it does make it quite hard to build a business in this beautiful country of ours.

As a nation, we choose not to sacrifice protection of lower-income workers, therefore we need to figure this out and find a way to play the cards we've been dealt.

The first step is to have an Employment Contract. The second is to have a Disciplinary Policy (which is specifically referenced in said employment contract) - and to make sure every employee of yours has received it and read it.

A Disciplinary Policy is a safe guard against an enormous amount of time spent in the CCMA trying to get rid of a bad egg. And trust me, everyone is going to end up hiring a few bad eggs. Usually more than a few. It happens. And that's all it is - most of the time you'll never need to refer to this document. It's an "in case" strategy.

The reason a policy works so well is that it lays out the rules, suggests a process, sets expectations and makes it easy for you to document the "performance management journey" should you have to implement it.

The golden rule of firing someone in South Africa - is that you need to make every reasonable (sometimes a bit more than reasonable) effort to provide feedback and help correct that person's performance before terminating them. And don't forget to: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

(a big thanks to Ferdie Bester who did a lot of the original work on this template)

Offences can require a variety of interventions, including but not limited to: Verbal Warning (which needs to be written and emailed anyway), Written Warning, Final Warning and Dismissal.

Remember that turning a struggling team member into a high performer is one of the most rewarding things a manager/founder can ever do. So don't give up on people. And of course, be very careful who you hire!


There is another little way to get rid of someone who just doesn't fit anymore. If you retrench, you're basically not allowed to fill that same position. But you can sign a "separation agreement". Be warned though, this will usually involve you shelling out 1-3 months (sometimes more) salary. So you'll have to balance the damage of an employee who doesn't fit vs the money you need to pay to correct your mistake (because never forget - you hired them in the first place).

Let me know in the comments if you want a bit more on that approach...

Enjoy. Hope you never have to implement this template. But make sure you've got it.

Disclaimer: The information in these posts work for us. I cannot guarantee that it'll work for you. Consult the right professional to make sure.

Extra Disclaimer for this post: I'm not a labour lawyer. Consult one if you can. 


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