Dismissing an Employee

Dismissal Following Warnings

There isn’t a fixed quantity of warnings mandated for addressing unsatisfactory performance or conduct in employees. However, it’s advisable to issue at least one warning indicating the potential for dismissal, along with guidance on how to enhance work performance or behaviour, and a specified timeframe for performance or conduct review. 

Typically, the predominant cause for such dismissals stems from unsatisfactory performance or behaviour. If you are looking for help with managing underperformance, download a free checklist to compliantly identify and address this challenge.

Unsatisfactory Performance

Performance relates to the way that an employee performs their job. Examples of poor performance include:

  • Frequent mistakes;
  • Not following assigned tasks through;
  • Unable to cope with instructions given;
  • Attitude to work, i.e. poor interpersonal skills, lack of commitment and drive;
  • Lack of apparent skill in tasks/method of work required; and
  • Consistently not achieving agreed and realistic set targets/objectives.

Misconduct & Behavioural Issues

Misconduct refers to actions by an employee that are not related to performance and suggest deliberate wrongdoing with wrongful intent. Examples of misconduct include:

  • Arriving late or missing shifts;
  • Poor presentation and appearance;
  • Misuse of company computers and social media;
  • Unexplained absences;
  • Leaking confidential documents and other information; and
  • Abusive behaviour towards clients or customers.

It’s crucial to differentiate between misconduct and behavioural issues, and actions that qualify as serious misconduct, which could lead to immediate dismissal.

Managing Unsatisfactory Performance & Behaviour

Depending on the nature and severity of the underperformance or behavioural issues, managers may find it appropriate to initially address these concerns through informal approaches before initiating a formal disciplinary procedure with the employee.

Written Warnings

If the employee fails to demonstrate improvement in the identified areas through informal approaches to addressing underperformance, the manager should initiate a formal disciplinary process by scheduling a meeting with the employee, resulting in a written warning. 

This meeting should specifically focus on the concerns raised during the informal counselling and verbal warning stages. The employee should receive reasonable notice of disciplinary meetings, typically 24 hours in advance. Following the meeting and careful consideration of the employee’s feedback, a written warning letter should be drafted and presented to the employee in a brief meeting, ideally within 24 hours of the disciplinary meeting. The letter should confirm the following:

  • A brief description of the behaviour/performance issue that resulted in the disciplinary meeting;
  • The outcome of the meeting i.e. the employee will be issued with a warning letter;
  • Timeframes in which the improvement is expected to occur;
  • The seriousness of the program and the effect on future employment; and
  • Details of when a follow up meeting will take place.

Performance Improvement Plan

An employee may also be offered a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), which should be documented and retained in the employee’s file. A PIP outlines the specific performance issues and provides guidance on the necessary steps for improvement.

Key areas to document in a PIP are:

  • Date of discussion;
  • Reasons for discussion;
  • Manner in which employee is expected to improve his or her performance;
  • The time period for the employee to improve his or her performance; and
  • Any relevant check-in points with their manager during the PIP period.

If you’re looking for additional help on improving performance, download our free resource: Performance Management Plan.

Dismissal

If the employee does not improve their performance or behaviour within the specified timeframe after receiving warning(s), termination proceedings should be initiated.

Before the final meeting, the employee should be informed that the meeting is convened to discuss potential termination of their employment, and they may have a witness present if desired. Additionally, any other reasons contributing to the decision to terminate employment should be clarified. It is crucial to solicit the employee’s explanation and provide them with a fair opportunity to address concerns regarding their unsatisfactory performance or conduct. 

Listen attentively to their explanation and evaluate whether it should be considered in the decision-making process. If the explanation is deemed unsatisfactory, inform the employee of the termination of their employment, specifying the applicable notice period or offering payment in lieu of notice.

 

About HR Connect

HR Connect is one of Australia’s leading providers of Human Resources services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance within small to medium businesses. We provide actionable solutions through tailored HR advice – including compliance health checks through an HR audit, HR documents for compliant policies and procedures, WHS compliance, and advice on employment.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact HR Connect for advice.

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