Share Article: Performance Management. How and why to tackle underperforming employees

In a perfect world, all of your employees are performing well and you might never need to think about performance management. But from time to time, performance of individual employees dips, which can have damaging consequences for the business. Problems can result not only from the work of that particular employee but also their colleagues, who become disheartened or demoralised if poor performance is not managed effectively.

The key player in any performance management is the line manager. They should be able to identify poor performance and should be empowered to tackle it head on. It is here that a good Performance Management Procedure comes into its own.

Whilst informal chats can often improve performance, it can be necessary to deal with it more formally using a Performance Management Procedure. Essentially, employees should be warned about their under performance, and given SMART objectives to identify where they need to improve. If a training need is identified, the employee should be supported. Following the ACAS Code is essential to avoid claims for unfair dismissal and uplifts on compensation.

The ACAS Code is not onerous, and makes a lot of sense. It requires matters to be dealt with promptly and consistently as well as affording the employee natural justice. This means ensuring that they are informed of the problem and have the opportunity to put their case. They should also be offered the opportunity to be accompanied at any meetings and to appeal any decisions.

Dismissal for a first occasion of poor performance will generally be held to be unfair unless it is so serious as to be categorised as gross negligence. A 3 stage process is more likely to be considered fair: with a series of warnings and timescales for improvement before employment is terminated. A formal process of meetings, warnings and SMART objectives should be followed at each stage before dismissal. Dismissal should always be with notice (or pay in lieu) except in cases of gross misconduct.

Businesses might want to shortcut a formal procedure for employees with less than 2 years’ service, who do not have the right to bring a claim of unfair dismissal except in limited circumstances. Tread carefully to avoid any suggestion of unlawful discrimination or dismissal for one of the prescribed automatically unfair reasons such as whistle blowing, health and safety or pregnancy/family reasons.

If you have any concerns about under performing employees, speak to Louise Taft on 020 7935 3522 or email to discuss how she can help.

Whatever your personal circumstances the above is only a guide and we would advise you to contact us to obtain definitive advice as you will appreciate that each person’s circumstances are unique to them.

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