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It is never pleasant to be informed that your performance is in question by your employer.

The likelihood is that you have worked for your employer for several years without incident and that your employer has praised your performance in the past, but now you are faced with queries about aspects of how you perform your role, or even a formal performance management process.

Performance management is a useful tool for an employer to achieve the results it wishes. It is also a method to remove employees they do not want and can often be abused. It is common practice to make an offer of a settlement agreement at the commencement of a PIP. If you find yourself in this situation then you need to speak to us as soon as possible as we will be able to assist you in negotiating your settlement agreement or resisting the action taken against you.

Performance management or performance improvement processes (often called “PIPs”) often come about when line-management changes. Often, managers new to the business, or who are managing different personnel, want to make an impression by changing the team. This includes targeting employees they believe do not fit, or are not pulling their weight, whether this is a fair assessment or not.

What is a Performance Improvement Plan (or PIP)?

Management action can range from informal comment about performance at a review or appraisal meeting, to commencing a PIP right away and issuing a first performance warning.

A PIP is a formal performance management process in which an employee’s performance in their role is measured via objective criteria, usually over a period of four to twelve weeks.

Once a PIP is commenced, the employee is set targets to achieve and a timescale to achieve them. If the employee fails to achieve the targets, then the employer can issue a warning, or further warning, until a final warning is issued and the employee is informed that unless they achieve the performance criteria they will be dismissed.

What if I feel my PIP is unfair?

Most employees believe that the imposition of a PIP is unfair, and they may well be right in this belief, but there are very few scenarios in which an employee can resist a PIP or resign as a result of being subject to one. This is because an employer has a wide degree of latitude in the way that they treat their staff when it comes to performance, even if the employee believes this is unfair. The imposition of a PIP is usually therefore the trigger for an employee to consider whether they wish to remain in their role, or look to leave employment with a negotiated settlement agreement.

Your employer must act fairly in managing a PIP, so the targets that an employee is asked to hit, or the performance standards they are expected to achieve, must be reasonable and commensurate with their job description and the previous performance of their role. The time-periods in which they are expected to complete their objectives must also be fair and reasonable.

Key features:

  • Your employer must also measure your performance fairly and objectively with reference to performance markers that have been agreed to be fair markers at the outset of the PIP.
  • It is often the case that employees can point to unfairness in the targets they have been asked to hit, or the way in which the employer has measured performance.
  • If you believe that your employer has acted unfairly during a PIP, you need to take legal advice as soon as possible in order to react to that unfairness.

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