It is inevitable that at some point in time either as a manager or as an employer that you will need to ‘discipline’ an employee. The reasons for this can be many and various and can cover a huge spectrum of issues from poor attitude to unsatisfactory work completion. Naturally you will have maintained thorough written records, made notes of discussions and kept a clear ‘plan’ in concert with the employee as to what your expectations are however there are some other matters that you should keep in mind.

The first relates to ‘context’ by this you should consider such factors as longevity of service, previous issues (if any) in order to provide clarity around the situation. Unfortunately as human beings the majority of us are unable to completely divorce our private life outside of work form our life ‘in’ work – it is often the case that the drug addicted child, the marriage breakdown/messy divorce, gambling problems etc will impinge themselves into your workplace. This is not to say that such things are the responsibility for an employer to ‘fix’ but they are factors that need to be accounted for when forming a picture as to ‘why’ the poor performance etc is occurring – particularly with long serving employees of previously good standing.

It is the brave manager/employer who simply rushes into a disciplinary approach without looking at the wider picture before issuing written warnings or terminating. Such factors can play a part in ‘mitigating’ the issues and may act as a strong argument if an unfair dismissal claim is lodged against you.

A second factor concerns clear communication – it is not enough to state that performance is ‘unsatisfactory’ you need to be precise about exactly what this means and what steps the employee needs to take to improve. Is it the case that employee simply lacks the training? Is it possible that a lack of available equipment prevents the employee from achieving the outcomes required?

Remember that termination is usually viewed as a last resort and not a first option – particularly with longer serving employees, ideally your process will end with agreement as to the steps required to improve.

Call us for advice and assistance in this often difficult area.