When an employee is not performing as they should it has a huge impact on your business, particularly if you have less than 10 employees. Unfortunately, in practice, it’s one of the most problematic employee disciplinary issues small business owners face, so here are our top tips:


(1) Always have a probation period

No matter how great your recruitment process is, sometimes the “ideal” candidate may just not fit the role. Very often, issues can be winkled out in the first few months of employment so having an initial probationary period makes sense.


Like everything else, it has its’ pros and cons (such as the employee may decide you’re not for them) but overall, it gives both of you the chance to test the relationship.


(2) Does the employee know what is expected?

It may sound obvious but the starting point is to clarify that the employee understands exactly what you expect from them. Knowing the end result required is not obvious to someone new to your business so take time to explain and document the exact outcomes required.


Very often we take on staff because we are really busy and that often means an accelerated (ok, non-existent) induction because we can’t afford the time either. There is no “Induction Manager/Specialist” and no HR department in a small or micro business. Employees trying to hit the ground running from day one are going to be making mistakes and you increase the risk of a really good employee hitting the door as they feel stressed from the start.


However, all is not lost. Organise a meeting with the employee and get back to basics to discuss the role and duties. It gives you the opportunity to talk things through and to find out whether the employee has issues (such as personal problems) that you don’t know about.


Following the meeting agree to

  • provide what is expected of the employee/role in writing
  • put in writing what the employee needs to do to improve and, where relevant, what support you’re going to offer (for example, an extra training session)
  • arrange a time period for the improvement to take place
  • schedule a review date


Do what you’ve agreed.


(3) Follow up with a review  

If things appear to be improving it can be all too easy to let the review meeting/date slide but don’t be tempted to do that. You may think that you have more pressing issues but if you fail to follow up with a review

  • you will only make the situation worse if things subsequently slide again
  • you are failing to have a consistent process which will invite a tribunal claim


(4) There is no improvement

Running a business isn’t a fairy story and so there isn’t always a happy ending. If things are not improving then take immediate action once you’ve held a formal review of the situation with the employee.


Yes, it’s a pain and the thought of having to recruit someone else is painful  but so is having an employee who is not right for the job.


Make sure that you take action in stages with

  • a final written warning (again agreeing the timescale and detailing what improvement is needed)
  • a formal disciplinary meeting
  • a final decision with the provision for the employee to appeal


(5) Have a structured policy so everyone knows where they stand

A clear capability policy (as part of your existing disciplinary policy or as a stand-alone) could be your new best friend.


However, it’s all very well having a policy that is the most amazing piece of legal drafting that you have ever seen, but make sure that

  • you are clear about the practical process and steps you should be taking
  • that you follow them


Do your business a favour and make HR much easier to deal with – contact us to discuss how having clear policies in place can make a big difference. It’s easy, use our number 01244 300413, email or use the big boxes on the front of our web site to arrange a call. We also have Live Chat so there are loads of way to get help.

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