Managing conduct and capability in the workplace

  • Employee Conduct
Conduct vs Capability
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

It’s important to fully understand why an employee is not performing well in the workplace. Their behaviour can relate to a lack of ability, knowledge or even interest. Employers should distinguish what element their behaviour falls under and execute the right procedure for managing the situation.

Within any business, having strong behavioural policies that outlines working standards is crucial. Employees need to be aware of what is the standard for your business, and more importantly what is unacceptable.

Acts of conduct and capability can diminish an employee’s performance rate, which consequently impacts the workforce and the business. Establishing whether an employee’s poor performance relates to misconduct or incapability falls as a duty for employers.

This guide will help you manage and process acts of misconduct and incapability. Learn how to help improve an employee’s poor performance in the workplace.

Employers should clearly establish what constitutes as unacceptable behaviour within the workplace. The standards of the workplace, and the consequences of disregarding the policy, should be clearly outlined in the employment handbook.

Employees are responsible for their own actions and should avoid acts of unacceptable demeanour in the workplace. Determining whether such behaviours class are Conduct vs Capability falls on employers to reasonably assess, with appropriate conclusion to follow.

What is conduct?

Conduct in the workplace refers to an employee's disregard for workplace protocol. This is portrayed through their deliberate behaviours and actions. 

Conduct outlines an employee disregard for their employment standards. They already possess the skills and training needed to perform tasks but lack a desire to do so. The acts of misconduct breach their contract of employment and business professionalism. 

Examples of employee’s incapability can include:

  • A lack of knowledge, training or skill can impact their ability to carry out assignments.
  • Health conditions or long-term sickness conditions can affect working performance.
  • Misunderstanding the job description for a role, because of workplace restructures. 

Choosing the best procedure to deal with Conduct and Capability issues

At first point, employers need to determine whether an employee’s behaviour calls for disciplinary consequences or performance management.

Disciplinary procedures for issues of Conduct 

If you can’t informally deal with an employee's misconduct issues, follow disciplinary procedures.

You can hold disciplinary hearings to discuss an employee's behaviours of conduct in the workplace. The hearing hosts relevant bodies to the case; like the employee in question, HR representatives and any union trade representatives.

Fellow colleagues or trade union representatives can accompany employees during disciplinary hearings and the employee has the

Employers should conclude the hearing reasonably and seek employment law advice before implementing final decisions.

Employers should reflect the following questions:

  • How serious is the misconduct? (Is the misconduct generally accepted in the workplace?)
  • What does the employee’s current disciplinary report look like?
  • Is it clear what the disciplinary procedure is? Are the consequences clearly understood?
  • Are there any mitigating circumstances? (g., first-time offenders, being bullied into misconduct, external stress/mental health issues, etc).

Depending on the disciplinary hearing conclusion, final decisions can vary. Verdicts like correcting behaviours, administering demotions and even dismissal from employment are considered.

Employers have a responsibility to notify the employee as soon as decisions are finalised. You should explain all outcomes, any terminations of contracts, and their right to appeal the decision.

In general circumstances, employers should not dismiss an employee for a singular case of misconduct. Acts of gross misconduct however can result in dismissal, without notice and payment in lieu of notice.

Performance management for issues of Capability

Initially, an employer should try to deal with issues of capability with the employee on an informal level.

If this is ineffective, implement a performance appraisal. Here, discussions over an employee’s their job effectively are had. Providing guidance and a Performance Improvement Plan will help steer employees to acknowledge problems - and elevate their desire to improve.

You can also extend support through counselling and training sessions. Implementing a performance management scheme, rather than disciplinary procedures, will encourage employees and effectively track improvements.

Expert support with employee conduct from Peninsula

Understanding the full procedures for issues of Conduct and Capabilities in the workplace is vital for all employers. Always have open channels of communication with your workforce and normalise discussing workplace issues that might be affecting their level of performance.

Get our expert team to help you with behavioural procedures. Peninsula clients get access to 24/7 HR to consult our specialists on or secure air-tight contracts with our document experts.

And if you are not a client yet, you can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420.


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