Five HR mistakes to avoid when dismissing staff

CREDIT: This feature was published on HRM guide and written by Marc Bishop, managing director, PlusHR Ltd

Nobody looks forward to dismissing an employee. It can be one of the hardest things for a manager to do. It can potentially cause disruption and unease among your other employees and it can be traumatic for the staff member you are letting go. Sometimes, however, when all other avenues have failed, it is necessary to say goodbye to underperforming employees in order to optimise business efficiency.

With the right training and processes at hand, dismissing staff can be relatively smooth and painless. Done wrong, however, and companies may face unfair dismissal claims and serious financial payouts.

Below are the five biggest HR mistakes companies make – and should avoid – when it comes to managing underperformance and dismissing staff.

1. Not giving employees a chance to improve their performance

The recruitment process is expensive; it takes a long time to train an employee up to full productivity. For these reasons and many others, before considering dismissal, manager and employee should get together to address the root cause of their underperformance or misconduct. They should also lay out a clear, precise, time-sensitive plan to get performance back on track.

Employees can underperform for a number of reasons. A large part of managing underperformance is pinpointing the cause of it and exploring avenues to resolve it. Perhaps the employee is having problems at home, are suffering from depression or they aren’t clear on their work goals. Their lack of adequate performance might even be due to inefficient workplace processes.

Get together with your employee and draw up a plan for improvement. Explain the situation, how important their role is to the smooth running of the company and how their performance impacts the business. Every possible reasonable step should be taken to get the employee up to speed. Otherwise, the staff member isn’t being afforded the support they deserve.

2. Not being clear about the consequences of underperformance

Employees must never feel like a dismissal has just been sprung on them. Manager and employee should have a number of meetings before the employee is ultimately dismissed. Ambushing an employee won’t play well in an employment tribunal and this type of behaviour will cause your company to develop an unfavourable reputation.

Prior to dismissal, the manager should make it clear what sanctions will be taken if the specified situation is not remedied. The employee should be given sufficient time and relevant support to make things right. If nothing constructive is done, or the employee doesn’t appear inclined to resolve the matter, they shouldn’t be surprised when they are dismissed.

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3. Not documenting the disciplinary process

Employers should never take a lax attitude towards dismissals. At every stage, documents should be recorded of relevant employee reviews and performance discussions. Take note of what has been said, what is expected and action points to be taken by each party. The current legal advice is to have a notetaker present at each meeting to keep a written record of the proceedings. If you are required to demonstrate evidence during an employment tribunal and you don’t have the appropriate documentation to support the reasons for termination, your company will end up paying the price.

4. Offering an employee the chance to resign

A lot of companies think the decent thing to do is to offer an employee the opportunity to resign before dismissing them. Though this approach isn’t always problematic, it can sometimes backfire and cause legal issues. The employee might feel ‘forced’ to resign, giving them cause for unfair dismissal due to a ‘breach of trust and confidence’. Employers are better off sticking to their guns and, assuming all legal steps have been adhered to, simply dismissing the employee in question.

5. Not considering disability

If your employee is disabled and their misconduct or underperformance is somehow connected to their disability, this needs to be taken into account when it comes to disciplinary action. Employers must also consider whether the misconduct or underperformance is connected to someone they are caring for. If either of these situations are true, companies need to make reasonable adjustments, or risk falling foul of disability discrimination laws.

There is an abundance of information online regarding how to appropriately manage underperformance and dismiss staff. The resources you find will talk you through the process step by step. Ultimately, however, it benefits companies to develop a company culture that promotes employee engagement, motivation and encouragement. Show your employees that you care about them, you’re invested in them and you are there to help them succeed.

This feature was published on HRM guide and written by Marc Bishop, managing director, PlusHR Ltd

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