PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT | Giving Employees warnings

Few things can be more exasperating for employers than dealing with persistently poor performance.

It can seem like an uphill battle to get some employees up to the required standard.  But employers should avoid falling in the trap of getting so frustrated they snap and dismiss an employee without having regard to the correct procedure.  

Can an employer dismiss an employee without giving previous warnings?

The general rule is that employees should not be dismissed for performance reasons unless they have received previous warnings. It’s important that the employee understands their shortcomings and is given the chance to improve. They should be provided with support and any viable alternatives to dismissal should be considered. In reality, a dismissal should only occur after you have followed a fair performance management procedure.

What does a fair performance management procedure involve?

A fair performance management procedure consists of:

  • informing them of the nature of the problem and confirming it in writing
  • inviting them to a meeting to discuss the performance issues
  • deciding whether to take no further action; refer the matter for investigation under the disciplinary procedure should there be potential conduct rather than capability issues or issue a formal Performance Improvement Plan
  • setting periods of review – you may need to extend and/or amend the Performance Improvement Plan.

If a Performance Improvement Plan has not resulted in the employee’s performance getting up to standard, invite them to attend a formal performance management hearing. You may then decide it is appropriate to issue a written warning. A further failure to improve performance within a set period may warrant in a final written warning.

Expert Tip

Ensure that any targets you set for an employee are clear and that they understand what is expected from the outset. Any ambiguity can cause confusion and delay the process.

How long do the warnings remain live? 

The Acas Code of Practice clearly states that a warning should set out the nature of improvement which is required and how long the warning will remain live. Typically, different types of warnings remain live for different specified periods. Separate Acas guidance suggests six months for a first written warning and 12 months for a final written warning. After such time, the warning will cease to have effect.

What about employees who have than less two years service?

For those with less than two years service, you can condense the procedure set out above but you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure that there are no discrimination issues. 

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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