Dealing with an employee's poor performance is perhaps one of the most familiar problems faced by an HR professional, and yet it is one that is notoriously difficult to measure. How much time should you allow to show improvement? How do you measure that improvement? And what of the question of the part-time worker? Joanna Broadbent and Sam Whitaker provide some answers
Rebecca is a sales person for A Limited. She passed her probationary period, but has not met her sales targets since. Can A Limited dismiss her immediately for poor performance or will it have to follow a proper procedure?
JB comments: If Rebecca has been employed for less than a year, she will not be able to bring an unfair dismissal complaint. A Limited may therefore decide to dismiss her immediately. However, Rebecca could still bring a sex, race or disability discrimination claim alleging other staff have been or would be treated more favourably. A Limited could follow a fair procedure to minimise the risk of such a claim.
Where Rebecca has more than a year's service, she has protection against unfair dismissal. A Limited will need to show a permitted reason for the dismissal (such as capability) and that it acted reasonably in dismissing her.
To show that it has acted reasonably, a proper procedure should be followed. This means investigating the cause of the poor performance, warning Rebecca and giving her a chance to improve. A Limited should ask Rebecca to attend a meeting and tell her about the problems with her performance beforehand. If the meeting may result in disciplinary action, a fellow employee or trade union representative can accompany Rebecca, even if the union is not recognised. Rebecca must have a chance to explain her performance, and A Limited must then decide whether a warning is appropriate and if so at what level.
It will almost certainly be unfair to dismiss Rebecca without giving her a formal warning. The warning should say what improvement is required, by when and what will happen if she does not improve. A Limited should then consider whether it can help her meet that standard, for example by providing extra training or a more experienced employee to assist her.
As a practical point, it is important for employers to deal with poor performance when it arises. It is obviously less risky to dismiss a poor performer before he has