We have experienced a significant rise in the number of clients being threatened with Performance Management Procedures or Performance Improvement Plans in this latest period of lockdown. Many clients report that their employers are being unrealistic in their expectations as to what is achievable during a pandemic. Read on for more information.
Lockdown and Performance at Work
Given everything that has happened over the last year, you might think that employers are sympathetic to their employees’ attempts at working at home whilst juggling children and family life, the constant round of testing, instructions to shield etc. Undoubtedly some are, however, there are employers who are unrealistic in their expectation of employees. These are the employers who are refusing to accept the changing economic landscape and the challenging situation their staff are struggling with.
Rather than work with their employees, some employers are initiating Performance Management Procedures and issuing Performance Improvement Plans. Such procedures and plans should be used to improve the performance of staff who are failing to meet the obligations of their job description to an acceptable standard. However, rather than being a way of assisting employees to improve their performance, they are often used as a first step to manage that member of staff out of the business.
Performance Improvement Plan
Most Performance Management Procedures involve the employee being subject to a Performance Improvement Plan or PIP. Although PIPs vary a little from employer to employer, the basic principles are common being:
- Performance Management Meeting to identify issues and set targets.
- Performance Review period
- Second Performance Review Meeting where employee performance is assessed against targets. If the employee has met the targets the PIP should come to an end. If they have not, usually there will be a disciplinary warning of some type. Then further targets are set going forward.
- Performance Review period.
- Third Performance Review Meeting where employee performance is assessed against targets. If the employee has met the targets the PIP should come to an end. If they have not, usually there will be an escalation of the disciplinary sanction. This could be a final disciplinary warning. Assuming the procedure does not allow for dismissal at this stage, then further targets are set going forward.
- Performance Review period.
- Fourth Performance Review Meeting where employee performance is assessed against targets. If the employee has met the targets the PIP should come to an end. If they have not, then this would usually be the meeting where notice of dismissal is given, and the employee’s employment terminated.
What Can You Do If Your Employer Wants To Issue A Performance Improvement Plan?
- Prepare Yourself
If you are invited to a performance management meeting get a copy of your job description, any procedure your employer is using, any appraisals or supervision notes, any positive feedback from colleagues or customers, in fact anything you can use to dispute your employer’s criticisms.
If you have any concerns about the person reviewing your performance or if you believe that suggested criticisms of your performance are not genuine, (perhaps the procedure is being used in retaliation for a complaint you made or to avoid a significant redundancy payment if you have long service) raise those issues straightaway.
If there are problems with your performance, perhaps you have been finding your job difficult recently, explain the reasons why and suggest solutions if you can. For example, do you have the right equipment to work at home? Does the company have the right products and supplies for current demand? Have they supported the business during the lockdown with marketing budget and spend?
- Make Your Employer Be Specific
Employers like to be vague when they suggest you are not performing. However, if you are genuinely failing to meet the requirements of your job description, they should be able to tell you how and why. Ask for specific examples, ask what you should have done differently and make sure you know what (if any) improvement is needed.
- Performance Review Period
Once your employer has explained the problems, they should give you the opportunity to improve. Make sure you know exactly what is expected and that your PIP is sufficiently detailed. If you don’t consider their targets or expectations to be reasonable, you should say so and suggest your own objectives going forward. You should ensure that any concerns you have about future targets are recorded in the minutes of your meetings. Also, ask for any additional training or assistance you might need.
- Prepare Yourself Again!
Make sure you go to your Performance Review Meeting fully prepared. Gather your evidence of the work you have done since your first meeting. If you were not given the training you asked for, take along the evidence of your requests. If you haven’t been able to meet targets, explain why and make sure you take your evidence. If you have been able to achieve your targets get confirmation that you will no longer be subject to a PIP.
Is Your Employer Genuinely Working With You To Improve Your Performance?
Usually, employers will state the intention of the PIP is to assist and enable an employee to reach an acceptable standard of work. However, employers sometimes use PIPs to put pressure on an employee to resign; to avoid a substantial redundancy payment; or, to put pressure on an employee to sign a Settlement Agreement.
A very nice lady instructed me recently. She explained her employer had offered her a Settlement Agreement with a compensation package if she would agree to resign her employment. She had also been told that if she didn’t sign the Settlement Agreement and agree to terminate her employment, then she would be subjected to her employer’s Performance Management Procedure.
We discussed the performance issues her employer had raised and whether the procedure was something she needed to be worried about. She explained she had been managing a large construction project which her employer had won by way of a successful tender. However, once the project started it was clear her employer had massively underestimated the work needed and, as a result, the whole contract was underfunded. Her employer had tried to save some costs by understaffing the site which, in turn, had meant the project was behind schedule.
My client had raised her concerns on a number of occasions. The project began falling behind and it became clear there would be very little profit. Her manager was suggesting that these issues were as a consequence of her underperformance.
In the circumstances, I explained to my client that she had nothing to fear from a Performance Management Procedure and, in fact, her manager would be very unwise to start such a process given the evidence she had of his failings in respect of the project. She was delighted when, following her instructions, I renegotiated the Settlement Agreement (as she did not want to continue working for her employer) and increased the compensation that was originally offered by thousands.
I was pleased to have helped but more than a little surprised by how frightened my client was about the threatened Performance Management Procedure. She simply had no idea of the strength of her position and that as she was not failing in her role, her employer would have a great deal of difficulty trying to dismiss her for performance problems.
Let Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Help you
For most employees, these procedures will come to an end after the first review meeting. However, for others, this might begin an attempt to fast track them towards a dismissal. Depending upon the criticisms, it might even be discriminatory (for example, criticising the performance of a disabled member of staff without considering reasonable adjustments).
If you are facing a Performance Management Process or have been dismissed for performance reasons, please ring for a free, no obligation, telephone consultation on 01522 440512. Alternatively, for more information about a possible claims for unfair dismissal please visit our website at https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/resignation-dismissal-and-redundancy/unfair-dismissal/.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, Lincoln
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