Underperformance and Capability
Performance Improvement Plans to Address Issues
Poor performance at work is easy to spot and often perceived as difficult to fix.
The good news is that with the right support you can overcome that hurdle, often with a mutually acceptable approach to resolution.
Poor performance can be caused by many different factors.
The trick is to be able to spot them.
It could be that training is required, there are health issues with the individual or possibly the company culture needs to be addressed.
Whatever the ‘why’, you can benefit from the years of experience Solutions for HR has in resolving these issues.
We can work with you to create a Performance Improvement Plan or support conversations which allow you to keep focused on your business while directly addressing the issue.
See how we identified the cause of poor performance in our absence and capability case study.
How do I dismiss an employee for poor performance?
Despite your time and effort your employee just isn’t cutting the mustard.
But how do you dismiss on the grounds of poor performance?
No matter what their length of service is, performance dismissals should never be seen as “out of the blue” to an employee.
Even with under two years’ service and limited risk of ordinary unfair dismissal, there can still be issues around discrimination so it is important that the process is planned and the employee is aware of the concerns prior to any dismissal, so as not to link the dismissal to any other reason other than non-discriminatory performance.
So there should always be a fair and transparent process.
With under two years’ service, this can be fairly informal, in the form of regular and documented 1-2-1’s or reviews.
With over two years’ service, this must be more structured, utilising a series of formal performance management meetings, performance improvement warnings, objectives, expectations, training, support and regular reviews.
Typically formal performance management is carried out over a period of 6 to 9 months.
The ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures recommends that employers give at least two warnings before they dismiss for poor performance.
This therefore mirrors the typical disciplinary procedure, the only difference being is that performance has to be monitored over the life of the performance warning (i.e. 3 months) before you can progress to the next stage. .
Importantly, employees with over two years’ service cannot be dismissed for a one-off act of poor performance no matter how serious you consider this act to be.
Performance is seen as a different kettle of fish to gross misconduct.
It is about capability and the skill to do the job as opposed to wilful and purposeful breach.
Only in very limited situations, potentially where serious danger to life is involved, can performance ever be “moved” into conduct for the chance of an immediate termination.
So how do we manage a performance related dismissal?
- Make sure that you have identified what the concerns are and that they are definitely performance and not conduct issues. This is because performance management is a long process and if you have conduct issues, such as timekeeping or attitude, it can be quicker to manage via a disciplinary procedure as opposed to performance management.
- Make sure that you are communicating regularly and recording everything. You can’t expect an employee to react well if they are suddenly placed on a performance management procedure and they were previously unaware of any poor performance. Performance expectations and objectives need to be set and regularly discussed and reviewed. Targets need to be measurable and achievable with support provided.
- The periods set for review must be reasonable, based on the employee’s role. If you set this too soon then the employee has limited chance to demonstrate improvement and this may go against you. A minimum of 4 weeks to a maximum of 12 weeks is a good guideline.
- When an employee has over two years’ service, formal performance management meetings must be held following any period of informal intervention. The employee must be invited to these meetings by letter, provided with all the information and evidence that you wish to rely on and given the right to be accompanied.
- The warnings process following a formal meeting starts with a written warning then, if performance has not improved during the review period, a fresh performance review meeting and period is entered into with the issue of a final written warning. If there is still no improvement after that then the employer may move to consider dismissal at a final performance review meeting. Dismissal is with notice as poor performance is a procedural termination.
- Supplementing formal performance management should be your usual performance interventions such as appraisals and PDP processes.
- And what about stress? Often employees subject to performance management become ill as a consequence or as an attempt to disrupt the process. Absence and claims of work related stress do make it a little more difficult to pursue a process but sympathy, sensitivity, reasonable adjustments, support and medical intervention in the form of a GP report or occupational health referral at an early stage will all help get the process back on track.
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