BUSINESS owners who complain that they spend too much time firing an employee may have only themselves to blame, says Nerine Kahn (pictured above), commissioner for the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration and Mediation (CCMA).

In recent years the CCMA has come under fire from business owners who say the association's rigorous hiring and firing procedures prevent businesses from firing and hence hiring more employees.

The Department of Labour is currently conducting a study into the labour legislation, which includes an examination of the country's dispute resolution system which the CCMA manages.

Speaking to BigNews, Kahn said many business owners are holding unnecessarily long and technical dismissal hearings when it comes to dismissing employees.

She says a business owner need only follow steps laid out in the Code of Good Practice when it comes to firing employees.

These steps include: convening a hearing after telling an employee of an offense, giving employees the chance to respond and having an independent adjudicator, who can be drawn from inside the business itself, preside over the hearing.

She says it is a misconception that cases at the commission take too long to wind up, saying cases are resolved on average in under 90 days.

She also disputes the fact that employees can flood the commission with frivolous cases and says 35% of all cases are “screened out” at the front desk. This despite the fact that the commission is mandated to take all cases regardless of their nature.

Kahn says in the run up to the 2002 amendments to the labour legislation industry, government and labour had discussed the possibility of excluding employees who were dismissed while on probation from seeking grievance at the CCMA, but that the Department of Labour had decided against it.

In accordance with the 2002 amendments, however, commissioners are asked to apply their minds differently to cases involving employees dismissed while on probation.

She says these particular cases are also handled in the con-arb process, where conciliation and arbitration are held jointly in a single step. Presently over half of all cases are handled by way of con-arb, says Khan.

But Jan Truter, a labour law consultant from Labourwise, a labour law advice service aimed at business owners, argues that reading the code is not sufficient enough for business owners wanting to get to grips with the correct disciplinary procedures.

He suggests that business owners should speak to other business owners who have attended hearings or send staff or themselves on labour law seminars.

He agrees that the CCMA has improved its turnaround time spent on cases. But he says the commission has lately placed a greater focus on winding up cases in the initial conciliation stage which has meant business owners are often placed under undue pressure by being pressed by commissioners to make a settlement in favour of the aggrieved employee.