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New Acas guide on managing the performance of workers

In this newsflash, solicitor Francesca Hawker looks at new research from Acas on performance management in the workplace and how it has led to a new guide for employers.

Dealing with poor performers is often an area which managers find challenging and addressing matters of performance can also prove stressful for the employee.

And according to new research by Acas, only one in four organisations have adapted performance management processes to consider staff with disabilities and special needs.

That’s why the advisory service has launched a new guide to give managers better guidance and support. After all, having a fair, clear and reasonable procedure in place will help employers avoid the pitfalls, such as claims of unfair dismissal – providing it is followed.

Employees are one of the greatest assets to a business and if they are not performing, it can have a detrimental impact on not only the financial performance of the business, but also the mentality and output of the rest of the workforce. Therefore, good performance management is critical for organisational success.

The new guide offers three top tips on treating employees fairly when managing performance:

  • avoid surprises;
  • avoid favouritism; and
  • avoid discrimination.

It is important for the employer to have drawn the employee’s attention to the required standard, usually at the outset of employment (and updated in light of any role change or business change) so that they are aware of what is required of them.

An employee should also be given regular feedback on their performance and if there are any issues, these should be communicated at an early stage so that it is highlighted to an employee what is required of them. If issues cannot be dealt with informally, a formal performance management procedure should follow.

While consistency in the way you treat people in the workplace is important and should be monitored, all businesses need to be conscious about what adjustments should be made for disabled employees.

Know your legal requirements

If an employee is disabled, an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments where necessary. A failure to comply with this duty to make reasonable adjustments is a form of discrimination and could expose a company to an Employment Tribunal claim (i.e. a failure to make reasonable adjustments).

If an employer was to go on to dismiss a disabled employee after their performance does not improve under a performance management procedure (which has not been adjusted in light of their disability), the employer would be open to criticism and exposed to a claim for disability discrimination.

It is important to note that just because an employee has a disability, it does not mean that their performance cannot be monitored or managed. What is key is that there is effective communication between the parties.

If an employer has an employee with a disability, and the employee is underperforming, it is important to discuss with the employee whether there is any link between their disability and the underperformance. This can be done in an informal manner.

If there is a link (or an employer suspects there is), reasonable adjustments should be considered and discussed with the employee. An example of this may be to provide lower targets for that employee or a longer time period to achieve the targets. An employer should therefore consider the diversity of its workforce and ensure the arrangements are fair to all.

Know who to ask for help

Training for managers in this area is crucial to ensure that matters of performance are dealt with consistently and fairly and in such a way so as to avoid possible employment tribunal claims being made against the employer.

Employment solicitor Francesca Hawker has experience in providing day-to-day advice for employers on issues including performance, reasonable adjustments and disciplinary matters with a view to avoiding litigation.

If your business is faced by any issues in relation to this topic, or you simply want to find out more about the services we provide, please get in touch.

Other useful resources

For more information on performance management, visit Acas website.