If you ever find yourself in this position, as an employer you should be quite rightly concerned as to the fact that this employees standards of work and punctuality are slipping below the standard that you expect from an them. Whilst no employer wants to get into a disciplinary situation there are times when you have no option but to confront the problem, ideally following a set Disciplinary Procedure, that will hopefully result in an improvement by the employee.
First things first, you should refer to the disciplinary procedure outlined in your employee handbook. Whilst there is no obligation on an employer to have a disciplinary procedure under the 1977 Unfair Dismissals Act an employee must be advised of the procedures that will be used for dismissal within 28 days of commencement of employment.
It is worth remembering that the objective of a disciplinary procedure is to allow the employee to improve his or her performance and conduct and is not a form of punishment. You should avoid invoking a disciplinary process with the sole purpose of dismissing an employee. Unfortunately a lot of employers wait until a situation has got so bad that they see dismissal as the only outcome but if a problem is dealt with early and correctly it can often be resolved. Furthermore an employer should always exhaust all efforts to allow the situation to improve before resorting to a dismissal and all of the inherent risks associated with that decision.
As I mentioned, nipping the issue in the bud early on is key to avoiding, often unnecessary, more dramatic measures later on. By taking the appropriate action now you are increasing the likelihood of resolving the problem and avoiding unnecessary confrontation. This is even more relevant where you don’t have a formal policy in place as if the situation escalates or where there is a lack of “procedural fairness” it is almost a certainty that a tribunal or court would find against you as an employer for unfair dismissal.
If this is the first problem you’ve ever had with a particular employee, the first step should be an informal discussion. Basically, it would just be a meeting between you and the employee in question (or with her manager if there is a manager) where you could just point out that one or two situations that have arisen where the employees work and punctuality have not been up to the level you require and re-iterate what you expect of him or her in their role and how they should improve. You might find out that there is something outside of the workplace that is causing the problems that might explain the change of behaviour.
This meeting should be held in private and you should make sure you have sufficient time to deal with the issues. Reduce any chance of interruptions by either meeting out of the salon or at a time when it is not too busy.
You should point out that this is merely a preliminary step but if the situation continues to deteriorate you will have no option but to take a more formal approach next time. Of course the employee should be given an opportunity to put forward his or her own views or an explanation. Ultimately you should agree the steps required to improve the situation including a timeframe for the situation to be monitored that should be reasonable and allow for an improvement to take place.
Once you have agreed the steps required you should confirm your discussion in writing and ask the employee to agree so there is no ambiguity and agree to meet in say 2 weeks time to see if there have been improvements. Hopefully, as in the majority of cases where early intervention is taken the problem usually resolves itself.
5 Steps to Remember:
1. Confront the situation as early as practicable-don’t wait until it gets so bad that you see no alternative but to fire the employee;
2. Keep in mind the disciplinary process is intended to improve the behaviour not act as a punishment;
3. Make sure the employee is given an opportunity to give an explanation-ask her if she feels she is happy with her performance;
4. Try and agree the steps required and a suitable time frame for the employee’s behaviour to improve;
5. Make sure you follow up on the agreed steps and meet to review the situation again within the agreed time frame.
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.