A few days ago, the Bahrain High Labour Court has ordered a private school to pay its former principal, an Indian national, a sum of BD 10,000 in compensation for dismissing her without a reason or a single warning, contrary to the Bahrain Labour Law. The former principal was dismissed six months into her new role. She issued legal proceedings against the school and won the case.
In their defence the school argued that the former principal supplied false certificates but at the time they had failed to follow a proper procedure of reporting the matter to the competent authorities (police) within twenty four (24) hours of their knowledge of the occurrence. Thus, their defence had failed and the former principal was awarded a substantial compensation.
Every employer must be mindful to follow the below procedures when dealing with any formal disciplinary matter:
- No formal disciplinary action should be taken until the matter has been thoroughly investigated. The investigation should be conducted within seven (7) days from the date the offence is discovered by the employer.
- The employee may not be accused of an offence discovered more than thirty (30) days ago, where such offence is not a criminal act.
- The employee should be notified of the offence(s) in writing and should have an opportunity to defend their case. This should be recorded in the investigation minutes.
- The employee should have the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee of their choice at the meetings that may result in a disciplinary penalty.
If the offence is established, the employer will have fifteen (15) days to impose a disciplinary penalty.
The employer should notify the employee of any disciplinary action in writing, should explain the disciplinary penalty imposed and the consequences of it, as well as the consequences of repeating the offence. The employee should be required to sign a copy of the notice acknowledging receipt.
The employee should have the right to appeal against any formal disciplinary penalty within seven (7) days of being informed of the disciplinary penalty.
Where a disciplinary hearing is held, the employer should set out in writing the alleged conduct or performance which has led to the disciplinary action against the employee.
The letter should invite the employee to a meeting to discuss a complaint.
Upon the employee’s request, they should also be sent all the relevant evidence, including witness statements, documents and other materials (subject to the employer’s discretion to take steps to protect the identity of any witness where it deems it necessary or to comply with its obligations concerning the personal data of other employees or third parties) which has been gathered during the investigation and which forms the basis for the employer’s complaint, as far as reasonably practicable in advance of the hearing (usually two (2) days). The employer should reserve the right to send or include additional information concerning its complaints to the employee following that first letter, provided that in doing so it gives the employee a reasonable opportunity to consider that information. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances.
The employee must send to their line manager (or to the person designated by the line manager) any evidence that they wish to be considered at least two (2) days before the hearing.
Witnesses will only be present at the hearing where the line manager conducting the hearing believes it is appropriate.
At the hearing, the employee should be allowed to state their case and defence, respond to the evidence and put forward any factors that they believe should influence the decision about what, if any, penalty to impose.
Following the hearing or the resumption of any adjourned hearing, the employer should inform the employee of its decision in writing.
Action, other than a dismissal
The employer may, at its discretion, determine that one of the following disciplinary penalties, which represent action short of dismissal, is appropriate:
- a verbal warning confirmed and communicated to the employee in writing;
- a written warning;
- a suspension from work with reduced pay for a period not exceeding one (1) month in a year and no more than five (5) days on each occasion;
- postponement of a periodic or annual increment; or
- postponement of a promotion upon being entitled to it for a period of up to one (1) year.
A first, second or final warning letter may be issued as applicable.
A copy of all written warnings should be kept on the employee’s personnel file and, if there is no further misconduct or unsatisfactory performance, it would expire after a period of six (6) months if the penalty is a verbal or written warning and after twelve (12) months in cases of a repeated offence/ escalation of disciplinary penalty.
The warning should contain the details of the offence and improvement required together with a time scale. It should warn that a dismissal or some other specified disciplinary action will take place if the offence is repeated or conduct is not rectified.
If further misconduct occurs or where a misconduct is sufficiently serious to be deemed gross misconduct, the dismissal would normally take place.
At the employer’s discretion the employee could be given an opportunity to appeal against a disciplinary action within seven (7) days of receipt of the disciplinary outcome.
The appeal should be accompanied by a written explanation of the reasons for the appeal. The employer should determine who should hear the appeal and should endeavour to ensure that the person who made the original decision is not involved in the appeal procedure and that, where reasonably practicable, the person hearing the appeal is more senior than the person who made the original decision.
A hearing should be held to consider the appeal. The employee should have an opportunity to comment on any new evidence arising since the original disciplinary action before any appeal decision is made.
The employee must take all reasonable steps to attend the appeal hearing.
The decision should be confirmed to the employee in writing as soon as practicable after the appeal has been heard.
Offences and consequences
The employee’s employment would usually be terminated without notice or compensation in the following instances:
- if they have assumed a false identity or submitted false certificates or testimonials;
- if they have committed any act which caused serious material damage to the employer, provided that the employer reported the matter to the competent authorities within twenty four (24) hours of their knowledge of the occurrence;
- if, despite a written warning, the employee fails to comply with written instructions required to be observed for the safety of employees and the employer, provided that such instructions are in writing and are posted up in a prominent place;
- if the employee absents themselves from work, without reasonable cause, for more than twenty (20) inconsecutive days in one year or for more than ten (10) consecutive days, provided that such dismissal shall be preceded by a warning from the employer after an absence of ten (10) days in the former instance and an absence of five (5) days in the latter instance;
- if the employee fails to perform her essential duties under the contract of employment;
- if the employee discloses without the employer’s written approval, trade and work related secrets;
- if the employee has been sentenced for a crime or a misdemeanor involving dishonour, dishonesty or public morals;
- if the employee is found during the hours of work to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if they have committed an immoral act at the place of work;
- if the employee assaults their employer or the manager in charge in or commit a serious assault upon any of their colleagues or any of customers during the course of employment or reasons connected therewith;
- if the employee fails to comply with the legally prescribed requirements with respect to the exercise of the right to strike;
- if the employee becomes unfit to perform the work subject of the contract of employment due to their license for the practice of the work being cancelled or due to being disqualified of the qualifications which makes them unfit to perform their duties.
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