We aim to give our readers and followers the best advice when it comes to managing people effectively. Every month you can read a digest of some HR questions that might be relevant for you.
Q: How can I fairly let an employee go during probation when they are clearly not working out?
A: There are a few steps you need to take before you notify an employee that their employment will be terminated fairly.
- Firstly, clearly outline the issues you are having with the new employee. Is it performance, conduct, behaviour, timekeeping or something else that is proving a problem and is prompting you to question if they are a good fit.
- Secondly, once you are clear that there is an issue, and you understand fully what it is – avoid making a long list of everything. You need to be fair, it needs to be reasonable, and you need to sit down and discuss it with the individual – so be realistic.
- Ensure the employee is familiar with the probation management process – how you will engage with them during that period and how you will raise any issues or matters that need to be address.
- Invite the employee to a meeting to discuss the issue – clearly set out what it is, when it happened, give a copy of the probation policy, grievance policy, disciplinary policy and maybe even the equality policy. This is not a disciplinary meeting so you don’t have to extend to them the opportunity to attend with a colleague or representation, at this stage it is an internal matter that is directly between the manager and the employee.
- At the meeting discuss the issue at hand, what it is, the impact it is having on the business/team, what it is you want them to do about it – agree a corrective action or a PIP performance improvement plan. Give them very clear outlined guidelines of what it is you need them to do and the time frame and the standard that they need to achieve etc. It’s also important that you tell them the sanction of their performance or conduct or timekeeping etc improving, so they should be clear at the end of the meeting what it is you need them to do, by when, the quality and what next steps will be if that is not achieved. You may need to consider further training, on the job coaching, or some other kind of intervention that is reasonable in assisting the new employee reach the required standard at this early stage of their employment.
- If the problem continues then you may need to call them to a disciplinary meeting, or you may need to hold an investigation etc. If you are inviting them to a disciplinary meeting, ensure you follow good practice and your company policy – don’t skip stages that you have in your policy – due process is really important. Document everything, make sure the employee knows exactly what it is you will be speaking to them, allow them the opportunity to bring a colleague or a representative to the meeting, give them every opportunity to express their views, to account for themselves, etc. Don’t pass judgement until you have allowed them the opportunity to speak and put forward their side. You may need to get someone neutral to conduct an investigation if it’s not possible to assess the accuracy or exact circumstances that have taken place – remember disciplinary action or dismissal is a serious matter and it should not be taken lightly.
- Once you know the outcome of the disciplinary meeting or the investigation, decide on the appropriate course of action that is proportionate to the incident. It could be that you decide to give them a new project to work on from start to finish, or you clarify the expected timekeeping, or you outline appropriate conduct etc. Give the individual an reasonable time to prove themselves and to correct the matter.
- If it continues, then use your policy to manage it – but don’t rush to dismiss, as it might be considered unfair. Follow you policy, give them a chance to appeal your decision if necessary and make sure you have someone in an objective position there to hear the appeal and reach an appropriate decision.
We have a team of trained and skilled investigators and consultants who have extensive experience in this area and would be happy to discuss any issue of concern with you. Just email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Ingrid on 01 5252914.