When staff are appointed its best practice to include a probationary period to ensure you’ve appointed the right employee with the right skills and experience to carry out the role effectively.
Although you may not expect performance issues to occur, demands and expectations within an organisation may change and these must be made clear to employees through performance appraisal. There are occasions where employees may not meet the organisation’s expectations and performance issues can include amongst other things; failing to meet reasonable work targets, missing work deadlines, inaccurate work, wasting work materials, poor customer service, inadequate volume of work within a specific time period, failure or refusal to follow instructions and/or an unwillingness to take responsibility.
An ‘improvement note’ or ‘management instruction’ is the first step to ensure expectations are clear. It explains the improvements required within a specific timeframe, covering on the job coaching or training as needed. It is important to emphasise in the letter to the employee the consequences of failing to make the necessary improvements. Although this isn’t a formal warning, it is a way of ensuring you have had a discussion with the employee, documented your requirements and supported the employee with any reasonable adjustments that they may require.
If after informal action the necessary improvements have not been made, then you must follow a formal process which must comply with your organisation’s procedures and union agreements. The process would involve:
- Gathering all necessary information to evidence the level of under-performance i.e. for an administrator this may include copies of photocopying wastage, errors in written correspondence, issuing incorrect information etc.
- Taking a formal statement from the employee to allow them an opportunity to explain the errors / issues
- Invite the employee to a disciplinary hearing giving the required notice and including all written evidence, correspondence relevant to the matter. Make arrangements for the hearing to be heard by an appropriate neutral senior manager. Ensure the hearing is clerked or digitally recorded allowing all parties present to have a copy of the minutes.
- Disciplinary warnings may be issued where it is evidenced that the employee’s performance is below the required standard. This is usually a first or written warning but in any case it is formalised in writing following the hearing offering the right of appeal as per the organisation’s policy.
- Final written warnings can be issued if there has been continued insufficient improvement in standards within a set time and despite measures to help. A mistake, or series of mistakes, may have a bigger impact in a small business than in a large one. On a rare occasion, when the impact is critically harming the business, or you fear it is likely to, you may feel it is fair for a first offence to go straight to a final written warning, if the employee cannot give a satisfactory explanation for the errors.
- Dismissal or action short of dismissal if the performance has failed to improve after a final written warning. Action short of dismissal may include demotion or transfer to another part of the business (depending on what is allowed in their Written Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment). Dismissal on performance grounds will of course be confirmed in writing outlining the right of appeal and will usually trigger a period of paid notice as per the employees’ contract of employment.
For further advice on managing probationary periods, appraisal and performance-related matters, investigations into staff performance or conduct issues please contact your HR advisor or call 01924 827869.