By Daniel Hunter
HR expert Croner is seeing strong signs that employers have been putting pressure on under-performing employees since the start of the new year. People not seen to be pulling their weight at work could be at risk.
Croner, part of global information services business, Wolters Kluwer, receives over 145,000 calls a year on employment-related questions from UK businesses. It saw a significant rise in dismissal-related calls to its employment advisory service in January 2013.
Carol Smith, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner, says: “In the run up to Christmas employers are usually reluctant to tackle difficult tasks such as dismissal, either because of a sense of moral obligation not to dismiss in the season of goodwill or because business may be brisker in the lead up to the festive season.
"However, they come back from their festive break with renewed vigour to manage tighter New Year business budgets, so there is an appetite to tackle serious employment issues that were put off before Christmas.
“The continuing low growth in the economy means that employers who have probably already made redundancies to cut cost are now expecting employees to give their maximum potential. If they can’t help to keep businesses afloat, underperforming people could be the first affected in an impending ‘spring-clean’.
“But our advice to employers wanting to dismiss under-performing staff is to not be gung-ho. Don’t get carried away and fail to follow the procedures set in place under employment law. For protected employees, there is a very clear process that employers need to go through. If they fail to do that, they are almost likely to face an employment tribunal claim, something they could well do without in the current economic climate.”
Croner’s advice to employers wanting to dismiss staff is consider the root cause of poor performance: is this down to the employee or other factors? How long has this been going on and are there simple steps that can be taken to bring the employees performance back on track? Consider the length of service of the employee; is there a risk of an unfair dismissal claim and are there any risks of discrimination claims if the employee is being treated less favourably than other colleagues?
Follow proper contractual and statutory procedures: this may require the employer to follow stages of the disciplinary procedure prior to dismissing. Managing performance requires the employer to identify areas of poor performance and offer an opportunity to correct it by setting realistic and measurable objectives and to support the employee to achieve these before taking the decision to terminate employment. Failure to follow reasonable procedures could be costly at a time when businesses can least afford to incur the costs.
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