Dealing with Incapacity in the Workplace

With the fierce competitiveness facing most industries today, your business cannot afford to turn a blind eye to employees that simply aren’t performing. In addition to the direct expenses of having a poor performer on your payroll, there are also the hidden costs of correcting their mistakes, dealing with customer complaints, and the additional time needed to performance manage the employee. It is possible to dismiss an employee for incapacity. But if you would prefer to avoid the CCMA, this must be done very, very carefully!

Performance Management

Once you’ve identified an employee who is not performing satisfactorily, there are certain things that you should do before dismissing him/her:

  • Make sure that performance standards are set, and inform the employee of these standards;
  • Evaluate the employee’s performance regularly;
  • Make sure instructions are clear and unequivocal;
  • Provide any training, guidance and mentoring that may reasonably be required to enable the employee to meet the performance standards;
  • Assist the employee to establish the reasons for his/her poor performance, and help him/her to implement a plan designed to solve any problems;
  • Give the employee a reasonable period of time to meet the performance standards;
  • Only if you exhausted all reasonable methods of upskilling the employee should dismissal be contemplated.


Despite all your efforts to train the employee, things still aren’t working out. The employee simply doesn’t appear to be cut out for the job. However, before taking that final step dismissing him/her, an enquiry should be held to give the employee an opportunity to make representations to the employer, and to objectively determine:

  • Was there a performance standard?
  • Was the employee aware of the performance standard?
  • Did the employee fail to meet the performance standard?
  • Was the employee given a fair opportunity to meet the required standard?
  • What is the appropriate penalty under the circumstances?

Once it is objectively clear that the employee is not able to properly carry out the duties that the job requires, and cannot be trained into the position, the employer can then consider dismissal as an appropriate step to take.

In short, Employees should know exactly what is required of them, preferably in writing, and can take the form of a detailed duties list or job specification. A Disciplinary and Grievance Policy can also assist in informing employees of the procedure that would be taken by the employer in dealing with incapacity.


Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.