Employees should be given feedback about their performance (whether good or bad) on an ongoing basis. Ideally, they should have a formal appraisal at least once a year where they are asked to reflect on their own performance, given feedback and set objectives for the year ahead.
If performance is unacceptably poor, a formal process should be followed in line with the process for disciplinary issues set out below with (normally) at least two warnings prior to dismissal, the right to be accompanied to hearings and the right of appeal at each stage. In cases of poor performance, measures of support should be considered both before and during a formal process (for instance, additional training, mentoring, alteration of job tasks).
If an employee’s conduct is unacceptable, then the disciplinary policy should be followed. As a minimum, this should require you to do the following:
- investigate the allegations of misconduct
- notify the employee of the allegations in writing
- invite the employee to a disciplinary hearing
- give the employee the right to be accompanied at that hearing by a workplace colleague or a trade union representative
- provide the employee with a written outcome notifying them of the right to appeal
- hold an appeal hearing if required with the same right to be accompanied as before
- have the appeal heard by a more senior person in the organisation than the decision maker at the first stage, if that is possible.
Generally, an employee should be given at least two warnings – a warning and a final warning – prior to dismissal being contemplated. If the conduct is sufficiently serious, a single final warning may sufficient. In cases of gross misconduct, it may be appropriate to move straight to dismissal, summarily (ie without notice). It is always important to take into account any mitigating factors before making a decision about the appropriate sanction. For more information about disciplinary processes see the ACAS Code of Practice.
Grievances should be dealt with in accordance with the grievance policy. In line with the principles set out above, an employee who has raised a grievance should be invited to a hearing to discuss it, at which they should have the right to be accompanied. They should be notified of the outcome of that hearing in writing and given a right of appeal if they are not satisfied with the outcome. At the appeal hearing there is again the right to be accompanied. For more information about grievance processes see the ACAS Code of Practice.
If an employee makes an allegation about unlawful conduct by the employer, and is doing so ‘in the public interest’, they will have protection from detriment as a whistleblower under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Whistleblowing may be dealt with under the grievance policy, but the issue should certainly be investigated even if it is not raised as a formal grievance. For more advice, please see the Public Concern at Work website, or buy a copy of the BSI Code of Practice.