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Dishonesty In The Workplace - Why It Is A Deal Breaker?

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Dishonesty In The Workplace - Why It Is A Deal Breaker?

5th October 2018


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It goes without saying that dishonest Employees should be dismissed from their employment. Why would dishonest Employees (even some that had admitted acting dishonestly in the Disciplinary Hearing) then refer disputes of unfair dismissals to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (hereinafter referred to as the “CCMA”) and/or Bargaining Council?

Why would the Employer view the dishonesty and/or dishonest acts as a point of no return, as opposed to the dishonest Employees believing that they should deserve a second chance?


What an Employer expects from an Employee

An Employer expects an Employee to act honestly, follow lawful instructions and generally comply with his/her duties as outlined in the Contract of Employment and/or Job Description.


The Employer thus expects that he/she can trust the Employee to do what he/she is instructed to do. Furthermore, the Employer will take the Employee’s word when making enquiries about tasks and/or projects that should have been completed by the given deadline. Trust is therefore of paramount importance to sustain the Employer - Employee relationship.

Why is trust of paramount importance?

Trust goes to the heart of the Employer - Employee relationship. Without trust, chaos and conflict would be created in the workplace. The Employer will thus be unable and unwilling to instruct an Employee to perform certain tasks when the trust relationship between the Parties have broken down and is non-existent.

Why dishonesty would destroy the trust relationship

Once it has come to light that an Employee has been dishonest, it will be almost impossible for the Employer to trust that Employee again. Everything that the Employee says and/or does after the dishonesty has been uncovered, will be questioned and/or second-guessed by the Employer.

The Employer would not feel comfortable having the dishonest Employee perform important tasks when he/she had been dishonest about completing important tasks before. The Employer will not be able to trust the Employee as it once had.

Employees usually do not view their dishonesty in the same way as the Employer does. The Employees see that they had made one mistake after years of loyal and honest service to the Employer. The years of loyal and honest service without incident usually breaks the camels’ back. The Employer had trusted this Employee implicitly for years. One act of dishonesty immediately destroys this implicit trust.

The Employer would not want to assign any more projects to the dishonest Employee seeing that the Employee may let the Employer down. This in turn could impact the Employer’s business, negatively and bring the Employer’s business into disrepute. It would thus not make good business sense to employ and keep a dishonest Employee.


Dishonesty in the workplace is a “deal breaker”. Dishonesty destroys the trust relationship between the Employer and Employee. Once the trust relationship has been destroyed, the employment relationship cannot be salvaged and/or repaired. Nothing that the Employee does after the dishonesty has been discovered, will be taken at face value by the Employer.

Furthermore, should an Employer decide to “ignore” the Employee’s dishonesty, it will create havoc in the workplace. Especially when it becomes known that the Employer doesn’t take disciplinary action against dishonest Employees. It will send the wrong message to the remainder of the staff complement. It could be viewed that dishonest behaviour is condoned by the Employer.

Should the Employer fail and/or choose not to act against one dishonest Employee, it means that the Employer will not be able to act against another dishonest Employee.  Should the Employer then decide to take disciplinary steps against another dishonest Employee, the Employer will be seen to have acted inconsistently. Inconsistency in disciplining dishonest Employees could lead to the dismissal being declared substantively unfair by the CCMA and/or Bargaining Council.

If dishonesty has been inconsistently dealt with by the Employer in the past, the Employer should issue a written revocation of this to all its Employees. The revocation will thus indicate from the date of issue thereof that all Employees that have been found guilty of dishonesty henceforth will be summarily dismissed. No other sanctions will be considered.

It is therefore advisable that an Employer should take a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to dishonesty in the workplace. All Employees being suspected of dishonesty should be placed on paid suspension and the matter referred to a Disciplinary Hearing. The Employee that has been found guilty of dishonesty at the Disciplinary Hearing, must therefore be summarily dismissed.

Contact SchoemanLaw Inc today for expert advice on all Contractual, Drafting needs and Employment-related matters. We can assist with the chairing of  Disciplinary Hearings. We also provide training to Employers to help ease their burden so that they can focus on running their businesses.

Written by Helena Roodt, Attorney, SchoemanLaw Inc.


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