The Labour Court reviewed and set aside the award.  This meant the employer had a valid and fair reason to dismiss related to the employee’s refusal to obey an instruction to transfer to another location.  The Labour Court distinguishes between insolence (repudiation by employees of their duty to show respect) and insubordination (refusal to obey a reasonable and lawful instruction).  Both terms are properly embraced by ‘insubordination’ in the Code of Good Practice.  Insubordination is more serious because it involves an intentional breach by employees of their duty to obey instructions.  Usually warnings are issued but when defiance is ‘gross’ it will probably be a valid and fair reason to dismiss.

City of Johannesburg v Swanepoel NO (JR2316/12) [2016] ZALCJHB 80 (26 February 2016) per Leppan AJ.

In Palluci Home Depot (Pty) Ltd v Herskowitz the Labour Appeal Court described insubordination as ‘a wilful and serious refusal by an employee to obey a lawful and reasonable instruction’ or where the conduct of employees poses a ‘deliberate (wilful) and serious challenge to an employers’ authority’”.


It is suggested that when employers are not sure about the ‘grossness’ of the conduct they could follow the statutory procedure and base the reason for dismissal on ‘operational requirements’.  The employee would receive notice pay and severance pay but those payments could be ‘cheap at the price’ if they avert any legal action.