Once the DI date has been set and the employee has been formally notified of the DI, the following scenarios may happen on the day of the DI;
i) The Employee is absent
ii) The Employee submits a sick certificate
iii) The Employee requests for a postponement
The following would explain in detail how to handle and manage the situations above:
I) The Employee Is Absent:
- Ensure that notice of DI has been sent
- Postpone inquiry to another date
- Inform employee that the DI will continue on the postponed date even if he is absent.
Ii) The Employee Submits Sick Certificate:
- Write to him that he should be present on the postponed date unless he is seriously ill
Iii) Employee Requests For Postponement:
- Obtain reasons - if reasonable, grant the postponement
The next stage would be on the day of the actual inquiry. The following explains what a domestic inquiry is for briefly followed by the procedures of a domestic inquiry:
The Domestic Inquiry process comprises of the following stages;
The purpose of the inquiry is to obtain evidence to establish the guilt or otherwise of the employee and to give him a chance to present his case. Care should, therefore, be taken to ensure that certain procedures are followed. It is the duty of the company to prove the charge at the inquiry. For each stage, the steps are as follows:
| At the Commencement stage, the steps are as below: |
The chairman of the panel or inquiry officer calls the inquiry to order at the appointed timeIntroduces/identifies everyone present in the room Ensures that the accused has received the charge Determines the language to be used during the inquiry Outlines the procedure to be followed, including the times for break, etc.Determines the witnesses for both sides and ensures that they leave the room before the hearingDecide on any issue raised by either party
| At the Reading of Charge(s) stage, the steps are as follows: | Step 1 Step 2A
The charge is then read and explained to the accused employee and he is asked to make his plea i.e. either guilty or not guilty to the charge. (Note: It is important to ensure that the employee understands the charge(s) before he makes a plea).
| a. Generally he could be asked the following question: "Have you received the charge?" |
| b. If he says "No", the panel members may have to determine whether the charge was sent to him. If not, the DI may have to be postponed |
| c. If he answers "Yes", he could be asked: |
| d. "Do you understand the charges against you?" |
| e. If he answers "Yes", he can be asked to make his plea |
| f. If he says he does not understand, then the charge would have to be explained to him |
| g. If he persistently states that he does not understand the charge, the panel members can inform him that since he does not understand, a plea of "not guilty" would be recorded, so that he could hear the evidence against him and subsequently understand the charge |
| h. If there are two or more employees facing charges for the same offence, each employee should be individually questioned to ensure that each one understands the charge(s) | Step 2B
i. The inquiry panel/officer should ascertain that the plea is unequivocal i.e. without any conditions and that he understands the consequences of his plea
j. The Presenting Officer should then be asked to give the facts of the case. It is very important that the Presenting Officer presents the facts of the case because until this stage the panel members have only seen the charge and do not know the facts relating to the offence. The panel members must know the facts to enable them to make any proper recommendation. Further, the employee who has pleaded guilty should also be aware of the facts in the possession of the company to ensure that his plea is consistent with the facts
k. The accused employee should understand and admit the facts. If he does not admit the facts then his plea of guilty should not be accepted
l. If he admits the facts, he should be asked to mitigate
m. The inquiry panel/officer should then proceed to make their findings and recommendations
n. The company can then impose the punishment deemed fit.
If the accused employee pleads not guilty
o. The Presenting Officer then calls the company's first witness.
p. Evidence from witnesses should be adduced in the following manner:
i) The witness is first examined (questioned) by the Presenting Officer
ii) He is then cross-examined (questioned closely) by the accused employee
iii) He may then be re-examined (questioned again) by the Presenting Officer
iv) He may finally be also examined by the inquiry panel/officer
q. The same procedure is repeated for all the company's witnesses
r. When all the company's witnesses have testified, the accused employee can be asked to make his defence.
If the accused is not represented by union officials then the following procedure should be adopted:
- The accused is allowed to give his evidence (may be guided by the inquiry panel/officer)
- He is then cross-examined by the Presenting Officer
- He may be given a chance to clarify certain issues
- He may be then examined by the inquiry panel/officer
If the accused is represented by a union official or fellow employee:
- He is examined by the union official.
- He is then cross-examined by the Presenting Officer.
- He may then be re-examined by the union official and may also be examined by the inquiry panel/officer.
The accused employee should then be allowed to call his witnesses who will testify in the following manner:
- Examined by accused or his union official.
- Cross-examined by the Presenting Officer.
- Re-examined by the accused or union official.
- Examined by the inquiry panel/officer.
| At the Presentation stage of documents and other exhibits |
If there are documents and other exhibits to be tendered during the inquiry, it must be remembered that they should be presented through the witness who is giving evidence relating to that exhibit.
When all the witnesses have testified, both the accused and the Presenting Officer may be asked to give their submissions (if necessary).
The purpose of submissions is to enable both sides to highlight the facts of the case which appear to be in their favour.
Usually submissions are only required where the facts adduced (cited as proof or evidence) are complex and lengthy.
It is not necessary for the panel members to make a decision immediately. They have the right to take reasonable time to discuss, weigh and analyse the evidence adduced during the inquiry before making a decision. However, they should not unduly (excessively) delay making a decision.
They should, however, inform both sides that they will hand over their decision within a specified period to the management which will in turn relay the decision to the accused.
| Note |
In coming to a decision, the inquiry panel is not required to make a finding "beyond reasonable doubt" but rather on a "balance of probability (standard of proof required for the most likely version of events is true)".
Recording of the Domestic Inquiry - The notes / minutes of the Domestic Inquiry should be recorded verbatim (word for word). A recording device may be used to record the whole proceeding simultaneously with the hand written notes to ensure accuracy.