Domestic Inquiry

14. (1) An employer may, on the grounds of misconduct inconsistent with the fulfillment of the express or implied conditions of his service, after due inquiry:

(a) dismiss without notice the employee; or

(b) downgrade the employee; or

(c ) impose any other lesser punishment as he deems just and fit, and where a punishment of suspension without wages is imposed, it shall not exceed a period of two weeks.

Section 14(1) above only mentions "due inquiry" but does not provide specific procedures as to how an inquiry should be conducted. Initially employers especially those without proper HR department, had to do what they thought best. Their actions had been challenged and the Industrial Court had handed over numerous decisions on the necessity of holding "domestic inquiry". The Industrial Court always held that natural injustice had not been done if an employer did not hold an inquiry or proper inquiry and the Court would invariably rule against the employer who failed to do this. It is an important principle that no employee should be dismissed for misconduct unless the employee concerned has been given an opportunity to defend himself or had been given an opportunity to be heard.

In order for a domestic inquiry to be properly held, certain procedure need to be followed. Stated below are some guideline for a proper inquiry:

A. Serve on the employee alleged to have committed misconduct a letter containing:

  1. Specific charge of the type of offence, the date, the time and place where the offence took place. Also state which rules of company's rules or regulations have been violated.
  2. The date, the time and the place where he has to be present for the inquiry.
  3. Inform him his right bring along witnesses if any;
  4. If necessary, suspend him for no more than one weeks pending the inquiry.

B. Set up a panel comprising of

  1. Chairman (should be a person not involved in the investigation of the offence)
  2. Two independent panel members (may be employees from another department)
  3. A prosecutor (may be a personnel officer in the HR department)

C. In the hearing:

  1. The prosecution will begin first . He is to make out a case against the accused first by producing witnesses who have direct knowledge of case;
  2. The accused i.e. the employee alleged to have committed the offence, is allowed to question (cross examine) each of the witnesses on the evidence they have given;
  3. After that the accused will be asked enter his defence i.e. to tell his side of the story;
  4. The accused may produce witness or witnesses to support what he has said;
  5. The accused as well as his witnesses are subject to cross examination by the prosecutor.
  6. The chairman will guide the proceeding and to record the evidence in writing;
  7. Tape-recording of the proceeding may be used.
  8. Lawyers are not allowed to appear in this type of domestic inquiry but official of the employee's union is allowed.

D. After the hearing.

  1. The panel will discuss the hearing and study the evidence given by both parties;
  2. The chairman will submit the panel's finding and recommendations to the Management

E. Management's decision.

(a) dismiss without notice the employee; or

(b) downgrade the employee; or

(c ) impose any other lesser punishment as he deems just and fit, and where a punishment of suspension without wages is imposed, it shall not exceed a period of two weeks.


My company is very small and I don't have enough staff and to form a panel for the domestic inquiry, what shall I do?

  1. You may seek assistance from your business associates who are familiar in domestic inquiry to help you out;
  2. You can engage labour consultancy firm to give you the necessary advice for which you have to pay;
  3. You may even ask the pastor of your church to be the panel chairman.

The important thing is that NO MAN SHOULD BE CONDEMNED WITHOUT BEING HEARD.

For details please refer to Section 14 of the Employment Act