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Can I dismiss an employee whose driver’s licence has been suspended or cancelled?

The short answer is yes. However, dismissal is not automatic and threats to that effect should not appear in an employment contract or policy manual. As with any dismissal fair procedures must be followed and dismissal must be for a fair reason. There are two possibilities regarding traffic offences.

The first applies to traffic violations occurring while the employee is driving a Company vehicle or on official business. Any offence (including traffic violations) may be treated as a disciplinary matter, and disciplinary action for misconduct may be applied. Such action may result in dismissal if the offence is serious enough or repeated.

Normal procedures for misconduct apply.

The second option applies when the employee’s licence is suspended or cancelled. The issue is no longer misconduct, but capacity. Whether the traffic violation(s) resulting in suspension or cancelation occurred on or off duty is irrelevant (unless misconduct applies as above). Here, you are not disciplining the employee for the offence, but considering their ability to do their job without a licence. Such a question can only be answered fairly through incapacity proceedings, which are similar to proceedings for medical incapacity.

How long will the employee be unable to drive? Can the employee continue his or her work without driving for that period? Has the employee’s licence been suspended or cancelled before? Can the company accommodate the employee in an alternative position for the length of the suspension/cancelation? If it is unreasonable for the company to accommodate the employee, could suspension without pay be an alternative to dismissal?

These are some of the questions employers will be required to consider during the incapacity process. If driving is all the employee does and an alternative is not available or practical, or if this has happened before with this employee, dismissal may be appropriate.

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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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