Whether it be a performance issue or an allegation of misconduct, difficult issues must be dealt with.  Here are some vital tips to assist you, because things are not always as straightforward as they seem … and there are some nice traps!

  • A verbal warning is not given just verbally but should be recorded in writing and given to the employee. A copy should be placed on the employee’s file.
  • An “instant dismissal” is not instant but must follow a proper investigation.
  • A “final warning” is not necessarily final but may expire over time.

In all HR matters it is necessary to follow a fair process.  In the case of a disciplinary investigation or performance review, this includes following any process agreed in the employment agreement, and giving the employee:

  1. Sufficient detail for them to be able to properly respond.
  2. A copy of the letter of complaint/allegations.
  3. An opportunity to take advice before they respond.
  4. A chance to give a response.  This is usually face-to-face, but a response in writing should also be taken into account.
  5. Advice of their right to a support person to attend any meeting with them.
  6. Information about what the possible consequences could be.  What is the most serious thing that could happen?  Is it a warning or dismissal?
  7. If you are conducting a performance review then remember to cover the good points as well as any deficiencies.

You should then:

  1. Consider all matters raised by the employee and investigate those matters.  Do not make on the spot decisions.  These show that you have not taken time to consider what the employee had to say.
  2. Once you have decided what happened, you then need to move to deciding what to do about it.  Again give the employee a chance to give their input into any outcome.
  3. Do not have a termination letter or final pay made up before the meeting – as this would show you have made up your mind and are not prepared to listen to employee input.
  4. Be consistent – do not expect standards you do not insist on from others of a similar level.  Outcomes should also be consistent for similar conduct.

Even if you are completely justified in the actions you eventually decide to take, you will be tripped-up if you do not follow a fair process to get there.

Employment disciplinary hearings and performance reviews of sub-standard work are legal mine fields.  We can assist in guiding you through the process, and some clients have us run the process for them so that there are no missed steps.

The information in this article is necessarily brief.  Full guides to handling disciplinary investigations and performance reviews are available in our Downloads section.