Sidumo v Rustenbrug Platinum : impact on disciplinary hearings in the workplace
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Prior to the Constitutional Court's decision in the Sidumo and another v Rustenburg Platinum Mines Ltd and others (2007) lACC 22 the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration applied the "reasonable employer"–test to determine whether a specific sanction, issued by an employer, was fair. The "reasonable employer"–test provided a lot of flexibility to employers to dismiss employees for misconduct, as employers' decisions to dismiss were "protected" from scrutiny by the CCMA. The Constitutional Court replaced the "reasonable employer"–test, which required a measure of deference to the decision of the employer, with that of the "reasonable decision maker"–test, which required an answer to the question whether the decision reached by the commissioner was one that a reasonable decision maker could not reach? This meant that in the event that the decision reached by the commissioner was one that a reasonable decision maker could not reach, that the decision of the commissioner will be overturned on review. The change in test from a "reasonable employer" to that of a "reasonable decision maker" had significant implications for employers who are instituting disciplinary action against their employees and subsequently imposing the sanction of dismissal, as commissioners are no longer allowed to "defer" to the decision imposed by employers. The Sidumo test also have implications for employers who are seeking to take decisions of the CCMA on review, as londo JP held in Fidelity Cash Management Service v CCMA 2008 29 ILJ 964 (LAC) that it will not be often that an arbitration award is found to be one that a reasonable decision maker could not have made.
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