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Handling Poor Performance

It is very important to deal with performance issues in a different way to misconduct. The following provides a useful checklist of how to deal with performance issues:

Investigate the issues

Carry out a reasonable investigation; this may involve investigatory meetings with the employee under investigation or collation of other evidence.

NB. Any investigatory meeting should not result in disciplinary action without a disciplinary hearing.

Inform the employee of the issues in writing

Notify the employee in writing of the alleged poor performance (i.e. standard they have not met) and its possible consequences (including, where appropriate, the risk of dismissal). Provide the employee with any written evidence.

The letter should set out the time and place of the disciplinary hearing (which should be held without unreasonable delay while ensuring the employee has reasonable time to prepare their case).

It should also set out the employee's right to bring a companion (either a fellow worker or a trade union representative) to the hearing.

Hold a disciplinary meeting

A decision to dismiss or take other disciplinary action should not be taken without a disciplinary meeting.

Employees and their companions should make every effort to attend the meeting. If the employee is persistently unable or unwilling to attend without good cause, the employer should make a decision on the available evidence. Either side should give advance notice of any witnesses they intend to call.

At the hearing

  • Set out the required standards that the employee may have failed to meet and go through any relevant evidence gathered;
  • Allow employee to ask questions, present evidence, call witnesses, respond to evidence and make representations.
  • Establish the likely causes of poor performance including any reasons why any measures taken so far have not led to the required improvement.
  • Identifying whether there are further measures, such as additional training or supervision, which may improve performance.
  • Where appropriate, discussing targets for improvement and a time-scale for review.
  • If dismissal is a possibility, establishing whether there is any likelihood of a significant improvement being made within a reasonable time and whether there is any practical alternative to dismissal, such as redeployment.

Inform the employee of the decision in writing

Following the hearing, the employer's decision should be sent to the employee in writing without unreasonable delay.

If poor performance is established, a dismissal would usually only be appropriate if there has been a written warning and a final written warning.

Written warnings should set out the nature of the poor performance, the improvement required, and the timescale for improvement. They should also specify how long they will remain current, and the consequences of further failure to improve within that period.

Give the employee the option to appeal

If the employee feels the disciplinary action against them is unjust, they should appeal in writing, specifying the grounds of their appeal. If they bring a tribunal claim without appealing, any compensation they are awarded may be reduced.

The appeal should be heard without delay, ideally at an agreed time and place, and should be conducted impartially by a manager who (where possible) has not been previously involved. The employee can bring a companion to the appeal hearing.

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