Even when employers conduct a full and thorough recruitment exercise, they may find themselves with an employee who’s underperforming and failing to meet the key requirements of their role. The earlier the lack of capability is addressed, the easier this situation is to manage for employers. Here are our tips for dealing with this situation…

Talk to the employee

Employers should begin by conducting informal talks with the employee to ascertain if there are any concerns that are preventing them from meeting their requirements. It may be that the employee highlights an issue that they simply haven’t received training for – something that’s easily fixed. If the employee isn’t aware of any issues, the employer may have to address their capability.

Try an informal approach

An informal meeting should be held where the employee is made aware that they’re not meeting the required standards. Measures can then be discussed and set in place, such as:

  • Training
  • Supervision
  • Additional support
  • A reiteration of the employer’s expectations

Once further support has been agreed, the employee should be given a reasonable amount of time to adjust to the new regime.

Start the formal process

Where performance fails to improve or the issues are too serious to address informally, a formal capability process should be initiated:

  • The first step is to invite the employee in writing to a formal meeting to discuss their performance
  • The employee should be given any evidence the employer intends to use in the meeting, including copies of any documents
  • The employee has the right to be accompanied at the meeting
  • The meeting should be used to put the concerns to the employee and to hear their defence against them

Performance improvement plan

A performance improvement plan (PIP) is a formal plan of action. It should:

  • Outline the agreed action to be taken by the employee
  • Include the improvements they agree to make
  • Include an established timetable for improvement
  • Make clear the consequences if these standards aren’t met

The plan should be discussed between the employer and employee, and agreed at the capability meeting.

Formal action to be taken

Alongside the performance improvement plan, formal warnings can be issued to the employee in line with the normal capability procedure. These should start at a low level (depending on their previous record) and include the right to appeal against any formal sanction.

What if performance still doesn’t improve?

The formal process should be repeated with the next level of warning being imposed, if appropriate. If the employee’s performance still doesn’t improve, the employer should examine whether there are any other roles suitable for the employee in the business before considering a dismissal. Only if a fair procedure has been followed will a dismissal for capability be fair.