Avoiding dismissal – alternative ways to turn around poor performance

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You’re fired!

It may have become a popular TV catchphrase, but in a well-functioning work environment, dismissal should be taken very seriously. Not only can dismissal result in the loss of an experienced employee and incur recruitment costs, but not handled correctly, employers risk facing a potentially harmful and costly dismissal claim. 

Before heading down the dismissal route for poor performers, consider alternative approaches as identified by our HR and employment law experts.

EEF’s team of HR and employment law experts are on hand to help employers deal with all aspects of performance management, through onsite support as well as a vast online knowledge bank of tools, downloads and vetted advice on how to deal with any number of workplace issues. This resource is only available to EEF members. To find out more, visit our advice and guidance support page.

HR legal experts know that the ultimate guide to fair procedure is the Acas Code of Practice. The bottom line when it comes to dealing with poor performance:

  • Be consistent from employee to employee
  • Carry out necessary investigations without delay and before proceeding with any actions
  • Let the employee know the problem and give them a chance to ‘state their case’ before any decisions are made
  • Allow the employee to bring someone along to any formal meeting
  • Where appropriate, give written cautions requiring improvement in precise performance areas within a specified time frame
  • Allow for an appeals process once a formal decision is made

Alternatives to dismissal

Companies will often give two or even three written warnings to employees for poor performance before moving to a dismissal. However, there are still alternatives to dismissal, such as transfer to another job (perhaps more appropriate to their abilities) or demotion. If you do transfer an employee, it can only be offered to them (rather than forced), unless the contract allows for this. However, if the employee refuses the transfer, it would be advisable to ensure that the employee understands that dismissal is the other option.

Underperformance

Turning things around

Rarely do employees want to perform poorly. Often it is a case of lacking proper skills, support, management or engagement. Here are a few ideas for dealing with poor performance, which may help avoid dismissal:

The ultimate goal for HR and line managers is to have all employees properly trained and engaged to perform their roles to the highest level possible. If this proves impossible for a particular employee, however, dismissal may unfortunately be the only alternative. Members of EEF's HR guidance and advice support can utilise the phone help line or contact our HR employment law experts at any time. To find out more about membership, browse our available HR packages.
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