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Introduction to this document

Warning/final warning of poor performance

Following a review meeting, if you want to formally warn the employee about their performance, you will need to issue a performance warning. This should give the employee a reasonable period of time in which to improve and warn them that a failure to do so could lead to a final performance warning and ultimately their dismissal.

Fair warning

The warning should explain the nature of the employee’s unsatisfactory performance and to what levels they need to improve (making sure you are setting realistic and achievable targets), provide a reasonable period of time for the employee to do this, advise them that you will have regular reviews at which their performance will be assessed on an ongoing basis and warn them that a failure to improve sufficiently within the time period specified is likely to lead to a final performance warning or, if the employee is already on a final performance warning, their being dismissed on the ground of poor work performance due to a lack of capability. What is a reasonable improvement period will vary according to the circumstances of the case, how long the employee has been employed and their level of seniority. As a broad rule of thumb, you should aim for an improvement period of about three to six months. Whilst the emphasis of this letter is very much on support, e.g. the offer of additional training, it also makes plain that if the employee fails to improve to your required levels, they’re in serious danger of being dismissed. Finally, your warning should also give a right of appeal against it. We’ve drafted  our warning so that it can be adapted to either be a first or a final warning of poor performance, depending on which stage of the formal review procedure you have reached.

Regular reviews

Thereafter, you should carry out reviews with the employee at least on a monthly basis, sometimes more frequently. Your informal reviews should follow the same basic format as the performance review meeting, detailing where the employee is falling short of the required standards and discussing the issues with them, although they will not be as formal as the performance review meetings and there are no requirements to comply with in relation to arranging them. They allow you to discuss the employee’s performance with them on an ongoing basis, thus giving them every opportunity to improve.

Formal procedure

However, if the employee fails to sufficiently improve within the improvement period you have set (or they do improve within the improvement period but then their performance deteriorates again within the validity period of the warning), you would then need to move to the next stage of the formal performance review procedure. As with disciplinary issues, there are three formal stages to go through: a warning, a final warning and finally dismissal. Prior to taking any dismissal decision, you should also give consideration to offering any available alternative employment which is within the level of capabilities of the employee. This may be on less favourable employment terms, such as a reduced salary as it is likely to be a lower level job. Unless there is a right contained within the employee’s contract of employment to impose demotion or a transfer to an alternative post as a disciplinary sanction, it is not permissible to do this without the employee’s express agreement.