Managing underperforming staff can be a frustrating and slow process, but you may be exposed to an unfair dismissal claim if you do not take the time to carry out the process in a fair and considered manner.
Follow these 5 tips when performance managing your staff, to minimise the chance of an unfair dismissal claim.
1. Be consistent
The first rule in any performance management process is that you need to be consistent. Nothing undermines the effectiveness and genuineness of disciplinary action then an inconsistent approach to performance managing your staff.
Consistency is necessary between employees because we all know employees talk to each other about these things. It is also necessary over time. When you inform an employee that their performance is acceptable when it is not, they may be blindsided to later learn that they are under-performing.
2. Give regular feedback
Employees should not be surprised when they are ultimately terminated for poor performance. Provide feedback as soon as issues are identified.
In most circumstances, feedback should first be given on an informal basis. If the employee continues to underperform, the behaviour should be formally addressed. Usually, this would involve at least one written warning prior to terminating an employee’s employment.
3. Give clear feedback
In order for employees to improve their performance, it is important for them to first understand what they are doing wrong and how they can improve their performance.
Specific examples of poor performance should be provided to employees whenever you are undertaking a performance management process. This is particularly important when taking disciplinary action against an employee as a result of underperformance.
4. Allow the employee a chance to respond
Employees are entitled to procedural fairness during any performance management process. Procedural fairness requires you to provide an employee with a chance to respond to any performance issues raised with them.
If you are considering terminating the employment of an employee due to poor performance, you should provide the employee with a chance to respond to the performance issues (preferably after providing the employee with details of the performance issues in writing) and make submissions on why their employment should not be terminated.
5. Keep records
It is vitally important that you keep records of all discussions and written correspondence relating to a performance management process. The documents can be used as evidence of the process taken by you in the event that legal action is taken by the employee.
Where possible, it may also be helpful to have the employee sign minutes confirming any performance management matters discussed. Please note however that you cannot force the employee to sign the minutes.