Calling a meeting with staff to discuss performance issues is always challenging.  Navigating the business requirements and human issues means that managers need to tread carefully.  This already difficult situation is further complicated by confusion around access to, and the role of, ‘Support Persons’ in performance meetings.  Recent cases from the Fair Work Commission have given clarity to the role of support persons, this week’s HR Highlight will explore this further.

Performance meetings

Any meeting with staff that is going to discuss their performance, good or bad, is a performance meeting.  When calling a performance meeting with staff it is important to let them know as far in advance of the meeting as possible.  It is also important to let them know what will be discussed.  This allows staff to prepare for the meeting and to call on a support person, if they so choose.

The role of a support person

Many staff and support persons are confused as to the role of the support person during the performance meeting.  Recent cases hear by the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission have highlighted that the support person holds a distinctly different role to that of an advocate.

The support person is present at the meeting to witness the conversation, and to offer emotional support to the staff member but they are not allowed to speak on behalf of the staff member.  An advocate is someone who speaks with the staff members voice, and there is provision for this in the Commission or in certain bargaining processes. In the performance meeting, even if the support person is also a qualified advocate they ,may not act on behalf of or speak for the employee.

Communicating the role to the support person

It is important that if the employee invites a support person that management review the role of the support person before the meeting beigns, so that everyone is clear as to their role and capacity in the meeting.

It is important to thank the support person for being at the meeting and remind them that they are there to be a witness for the employee and offer emotional support, but that they are not to speak on behalf of the employee or to attempt to control the conversation.

It is often helpful at this point to offer to have a separate meeting with the support person at a later date to answer any questions they may have about the meeting.

Here to Help

ACAPMA members are reminded that ACAPMAlliance has a series of resources from Quick Reference Guides to template letters and investigation and reporting checklists that can assist with ensuring compliant and consistent responses in this area, and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals on 1300 160 270.

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 by  calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals it’s free for members.

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