Managing performance at any time is a minefield of compliance requirements and specific circumstances.  During the Christmas period however, the high pressure of the busy season, combined with the tendency for management support staff to be on leave, creates a perfect storm where line managers can easily forget the key elements of procedural fairness required.  This weeks HR Highlight is a reminder to all management to review the requirements with line managers, before heading off on leave.

The management of employee performance or indeed the end of an employment relationship – be it by termination or redundancy – requires the observation of certain forms and elements that ensure the relationship ends appropriately.

None is more important than the concept of Procedural or Natural Fairness, wherein employees are offered a chance to explain their actions and behaviours and be given an opportunity to rectify or improve those actions and behaviours if appropriate. Management needs to be open to the reform of the behaviour in instances where reform is appropriate.

For grievous misconduct and serious breaches it is still important for management to give the employee a chance to tell their side of the story as there may be mitigating circumstances that the employer should take into account before determining the appropriate response.

Notice of Meeting

It is important that when a performance issue arises that management give the employee notice of a meeting to discuss their performance or a performance issue.  This allows staff to engage a Support Person to be present as a witness if they choose, and allows them to prepare to discuss their performance.

Improvement and Reply

It is important that prior to any final decision being made and acted on by the business that the employee be given an opportunity to respond to the issue, and if appropriate, change their behaviour.

Documentation

It is important that after any performance management meeting documents clarifying not only the meeting but also the outcome or decision of the business are provided.

Examples

Where there is a correctable performance issue, such as a lack of uniform compliance, it would be appropriate to call a meeting to discuss the expectations of the business, explain that there has been breach behaviour, hear from the employee about any mitigating reasons, and then to gain a commitment to meeting expectations in the future.  This meeting would likely result in a formal warning and thus be followed by formal documentation that would again clarify the expectations, outline that there had been breaches, provide a formal warning that expectations must be met in the future or continued employment may be at risk, and recognise the employee’s responses, comments and commitment.

Where there is a more serious, misconduct based performance issue, such as serious safety breach or failure to follow stock and cash handling procedures (theft), it is still important to afford the employee an opportunity to understand the breach and respond to it before the business makes a final decision, even if the business has a stated “zero tolerance” policy.  In this example it would be appropriate to call a meeting to discuss the expectations of the business, to outline the details of the breach and to seek the employee’s comments and responses, prior to the business making a decision on how to proceed.  In the event that the business made the decision to terminate this meeting would be followed by a letter outlining the reasons for termination and acknowledging the businesses expectations, the breaches made and the employee responses.  In the event that a warning or retraining or both are determined to be an appropriate outcome this would also be documented in a letter that would clarify the expectations, outline that there had been breaches, provide a formal warning that expectations must be met in the future or continued employment may be at risk, and recognise the employee’s responses, comments and commitment.

Performance Management at Christmas

The requirement for compliant performance management is not reduced due to the Christmas break. As many management staff go on leave and pressures increase due to high retail activity, there is a real possibility of knee-jerk reactions to performance issues occurring in the Christmas period. All line managers and team leaders need to be aware of the need to build this concept of procedural fairness into their performance management responses and to seek advice from managers and third parties if required.

Termination at Christmas

If performance management results in the decision to terminate the Christmas period adds an additional element to the standard notice calculations.

When calculating final payments for the end of an employment relationship during the festive season, it is important to note if an employee would have been entitled to have a public holiday off at full pay then that day must not be counted as notice and must be included in the termination payment appropriately.

If a permanent employee is terminated with two weeks notice from day x, and within that two week calendar period there are three public holidays, that the employee would have been entitled to take and receive payment for, then the notice period and any payments will be for; the two weeks plus three days to account for the public holidays.

Also worth noting is that when the employer is paying out entitlements in lieu of notice then the figure to utilise is the rate the employee would have been on had they actually worked the notice period. This includes allowances and overtime that would have been required to work for that period, such as the Dangerous Goods Allowances.

Here to Help

Through the festive season, the ACAPMA Employment Department is available to assist members by emailing employment@acapma.com.au.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation emailing employment@acapma.com.au to chat with one of the Employment Professionals, its free for members.

ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $810 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.