The Importance of PIP’s in the Disciplinary Process
Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) provide a framework to address issues or concerns where employee standards fall short of what is required. The PIP framework enables improvements in performance by outlining a clear path of standards to be achieved within a specified timeframe and detailing the supports and training to enable these improvements. Failing to perform to the standards within the agreed timeframe may be subject to disciplinary procedure and a PIP helps ensure that all employees are treated fairly and consistently throughout the process.
A PIP entails the setting of performance targets which are agreed with the employer that the employee is expected to achieve over a specified period of time. If targets are not achieved the PIP clearly sets out the points at which it can be escalated to disciplinary. It is essential for the employer to ensure they invest in the necessary training supports agreed during this period and conduct reviews and feedback at agreed times
While a PIP aims to help an underperforming employee improve, it also serves to protect the employer from an unfair dismissal claim in the event that the employee is eventually dismissed for performance.
Key criteria for successful PIP’s include:-
- Detailing the specific areas that require improvement
- Clearly describing the standard that is required i.e. “What does good look like”
- Providing the supports and training to enable the employee improve
- Agreeing specific timeframes for review
- Specifying the triggers that will escalate the process to a disciplinary process
- Reviewing objectives at agreed dates and providing constructive feedback
Terminating an employee on grounds of competency is a valid reason for dismissal but not one that is easy to establish with every dismissal automatically deemed unfair. While performance may be legitimate grounds for dismissal failing to follow proper disciplinary procedures can leave employers exposed to unfair dismissal claims unless the employer can demonstrate that the employee was given a number of opportunities to improve and to have conducted both a PIP and a separate disciplinary process. The objective of the PIP therefore is to afford an employee the opportunity to improve before the disciplinary process is instigated. Evidence of following good performance improvement procedures using a PIP will either deliver the required improved performance or will also help protect the employer in the event that ultimately there is an unfair dismissal claim.