Performance Improvement Policy and Procedure

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Performance Improvement Policy and Procedure

  1. 1. OFT performance improvement Policy The OFT aims to ensure that there will be a fair and consistent approach to the enforcement of standards of performance throughout the organisation. The performance improvement policy and procedures help to promote fairness and consistency in the treatment of individuals and encourage improvement in individual performance. In many cases early intervention by a staff manager can prevent an issue escalating to a serious performance issue and this is therefore strongly recommended. HR (employee relations) can be consulted at any stage of this process. This policy and procedure applies to all employees 1 of the OFT whether permanent or fixed term. It does not apply to contractors or agency staff as their contracts can be terminated without following this procedure since they are not OFT employees. Before commencing the formal performance improvement procedure the issues should be discussed with HR to ensure that the correct procedures are adopted. HR will support managers through the process. Whilst this policy and procedure is part of the terms and conditions of employment it does not form part of an employee's individual contract and the content may be subject to revision as the need arises in consultation with the trade unions. The main purpose of this policy and procedure is to improve the performance of individuals that have been identified as under-performers. The emphasis is on encouraging improvement and supporting the individual to enable him/her to achieve the required standard of performance. This procedure does not apply to probationers, to whom a different procedure applies – see probation policy for further information. Whilst not the main purpose of this policy and procedure the outcome may be a dismissal in the event that an employee fails to achieve and maintain a satisfactory level of performance having been given the appropriate learning and Includes employees on loan to the OFT. In such circumstances the parent department will be notified that the Performance Improvement Procedure is being invoked.
  2. 2. development opportunities (whether training courses or on-the-job coaching) and time in which to improve. HR (learning and development) should be consulted about the support available in this area. Performance management is a key role for every staff manager and as such they are required to set and communicate clear objectives for their staff and establish measurable standards of performance required to achieve those objectives. Poor performance procedures should not come as a surprise to an individual. Staff managers should be giving individual's timely and constructive feedback on their performance and ensure that the individual is clear that he/she is receiving feedback on their performance. Staff managers should also make it clear what support is available to help the individual improve. Where appropriate such conversations should be followed up in writing to avoid any ambiguities. The assessment of performance is a continuous process, the outcome of which is confirmed and discussed annually at the time of the annual performance appraisal. Issues of poor performance must, however, be addressed as they occur and not 'stored' for discussion at the appraisal or mid year review, which should be nothing more than a confirmation and discussion of what has been achieved. The underlying principle should be that there are no surprises at either the mid-year review or the end of year appraisal. In an environment where performance standards are clearly defined and continually assessed it is expected that poor performance will be addressed as it occurs. Staff managers and employees will normally resolve issues informally, where necessary seeking advice from HR. Where such an approach fails to achieve the standards of performance required the formal performance improvement procedure will be invoked. At all stages of the process (initial meeting to discuss reasons for unsatisfactory performance, and to set timescales for improvements required, subsequent formal meetings, and appeal), the employee will have the right to be accompanied by one companion who is a fellow worker or full-time/lay trade union official. Employees subject to the procedure and participating in a performance improvement programme will not receive progression increases to their salary until they have successfully completed the programme.
  3. 3. Informal action In the first instance performance issues should be dealt with informally by the staff manager (in discussion with the work manager where appropriate) and the employee. This is part of day to day management and is intended to ensure that an employee is aware of what is expected of them and prevent problems arising. If there are issues that need to be addressed, targets for improvement should be set and a timescale for review agreed. If this fails to deliver the necessary improvement in performance, formal action under stage one of this policy and procedure will follow. Formal action - stage one Following consultation with HR, the staff manager will arrange a meeting with the employee, the objective of which will be to: • Set out why and how the staff manager considers the required standards have not been met. • Provide an opportunity for the employee to explain the poor performance and ask any relevant questions. • Discuss measures, such as additional training or supervision, which may improve performance. • Set targets and a timescale for improvement and review. The timescale for review should normally be one to three months (see Annexe A). The employee should be given written notification of the meeting, including a summary of the performance issues and the purpose of the meeting. He/she should be given at least five working days' notice and informed that he/she may be accompanied by one companion who is a fellow worker or full-time/lay trade union official. This meeting can be postponed for up to five days if the companion is unavailable to attend. These timescales can be extended where all parties agree and consideration should be given to employees working on a part time basis. However whilst the time frames are flexible there should be no unnecessary delays.
  4. 4. At the end of the meeting the staff manager will reconfirm the performance standards required taking into account any mitigating circumstances and agree with the employee a performance improvement plan designed to achieve them. Following the hearing the employee will be given a copy of the performance improvement plan together with a first written warning setting out the areas discussed and the consequences of failing to improve within the review period. A copy of this warning will be placed on the employee's personal file. In any event it will be made clear to the employee that if the under-performance persists and the requirements of the agreed plan are not met then the next stage of the procedure will be invoked and may result in dismissal. The employee will be advised that he/she has a right of appeal to a more senior manager. The employee's performance and progress against the performance improvement plan will be continually assessed and if the required improvements are achieved and maintained the employee will be informed in writing and the issue will be at an end. The first written warning will remain 'live' for nine months from the date of issue and if the employee slips back to an unsatisfactory level, during this period the performance improvement procedure will recommence at stage two. If the under-performance persists however, or the employee fails to meet the requirements of the plan, stage two of the performance improvement procedure will be implemented. Formal action - stage two Following consultation with HR the staff manager will arrange a meeting with the employee, the objective of which will be to: • Explain why and how the staff manager considers the required standards have not been met. Make clear where the issues are and the reasons for entering into stage two of the procedure. • Provide an opportunity for the employee to explain the poor performance and ask any relevant questions. • Discuss measures, such as additional training or supervision, which may improve performance. • Set targets and a timescale for improvement and review. The timescale for review should normally be between one to three months (see Annexe A).
  5. 5. • Make any necessary adjustments to the performance improvement plan. The adjustments will be agreed at this stage. The employee should be given written notification of the meeting, including a summary of the performance issues, the purpose of the meeting and the fact that stage two of the procedure is being invoked. He/she should be given at least five working days' notice and informed that he/she may be accompanied by one companion who is a fellow worker or full-time/lay trade union official. This meeting can be postponed for up to five days if the companion is unavailable to attend. These timescales can be extended where all parties agree and consideration should be given to employees working on a part time basis. However whilst the time frames are flexible there should be no unnecessary delays. Following the hearing the employee will be given a copy of the performance improvement plan amended if appropriate to take into account any mitigating circumstances, together with a final written warning setting out the areas discussed and the consequences of failing to improve within the review period. A copy of this warning will be placed on the employee's personal file. In any event it will be made clear to the employee that if the under-performance persists and the requirements of the agreed plan are not met then the next stage of the procedure will be invoked and may result in dismissal. The employee will be advised that he/she has a right of appeal to a more senior manager. The employee's performance and progress against the performance improvement plan will be continually assessed and if the required improvements are achieved and maintained the employee will be informed in writing and the issue will be at an end. The final written warning will remain 'live' for 12 months from the date of issue and if the employee slips back during this period to an unsatisfactory level, the Performance improvement procedure will recommence at stage three. If the under-performance persists however, or the employee fails to meet the requirements of the plan, stage three of the performance improvement procedure will be implemented. Formal action - stage three At this stage in the proceedings, where dismissal is a possible outcome, HR will arrange a meeting with the staff manager, the employee and their companion, a senior HR manager (G7 or above), and a senior independent manager for the
  6. 6. purposes of reviewing the issues and the employee's performance against the performance improvement plan. The employee should be given written notification of the meeting, including a summary of the performance issues, the purpose of the meeting and the fact that stage three of the procedure is being invoked. He/she should be given at least five working days' notice and informed that he/she may be accompanied by one companion who is a fellow worker or full-time/lay trade union official. This meeting can be postponed for up to five days if the companion is unavailable to attend. If the panel are satisfied that the employee has been provided with the appropriate training and support but has persistently failed to achieve the required standards of performance and, on the balance of probabilities, is unlikely to achieve them in the future, then the decision is likely to be dismissal. However the panel may, depending on the circumstances, consider voluntary downgrading or a voluntary reduction in salary as an alternative to dismissal. If the panel finds that the requirements of the performance improvement plan were unreasonable, the employee has received insufficient training or there were mitigating circumstances, they can extend the process for a maximum of three months (see Annexe A). If the decision is to extend then the employee will be informed in writing and the letter will include the date upon which the extension expires and the dates of regular performance reviews involving the staff/work manager and countersigning manager. If at the end of that period the required improvements have still not been achieved then dismissal with notice will be the likely outcome. The panel may, exceptionally, consider voluntary downgrading or a voluntary reduction in salary as an alternative to dismissal. Following a dismissal or any other sanction the employee will be advised that he/she has a right of appeal to a more senior manager. The right to be accompanied An employee subject of the performance improvement procedure has the right under this policy to be accompanied throughout the formal procedure by a companion. The companion must be a fellow worker or full-time/lay trade union
  7. 7. official of the employee's choice and he/she must be willing to accompany the employee. Exceptionally there may be legitimate reasons for the OFT to decline a chosen companion and these reasons may include: • potential conflict of interest • an employee who is involved in the process. In these circumstances, the employee will be given the reasons in writing for the decision to decline the companion of their choice, and the opportunity to choose an alternative companion, including time to make the alternative arrangements and for the new companion to familiarise themselves with the case. The companion is entitled to address the hearing in order to put the employee's case, sum up that case, respond to any views expressed at the hearing, and to confer with the employee during the hearing. The companion is not entitled to answer questions on behalf of the employee, or address the hearing if the employee does not wish him/her to do so, nor can they prevent the employee from explaining his/her case or prevent any other person from making a contribution to the hearing. However if the companion wishes to adjourn proceedings to confer with the employee this will not constitute attempting to prevent the employee from making a contribution or giving an explanation providing it does not happen too regularly and in circumstances where it could be construed as having that effect. Appeal process If an employee wants to appeal against a decision at any of the three formal stages of the process they should do so in writing stating the grounds of the appeal, to the appeal manager named in the letter informing them of the outcome of the stage. This must be done within five working days of receipt of the letter. The original sanction will not, however, be suspended pending the outcome of the appeal. The manager responsible for the appeal should normally hear it within five working days of the initial notification. At the appeal hearing the employee has the right to be accompanied as before and he/she will be given the opportunity to state the grounds for appeal. The appeal manager will consider the facts and speak to such people as he/she see fit. He/she should not consult with the manager who took
  8. 8. the original decision except where necessary to clarify the facts, as it may mean that the appeal manager's view of the matter becomes tainted. An appeal would not normally involve a reinvestigation of the facts that formed part of the original hearing, but would generally focus on specific issues that could include: • new information relevant to the case that was not previously available • evidence that the policy or procedure has not been followed • evidence that the decision is unreasonable. The appeal manager will consider the merits of the appeal in private before reaching a decision and may discuss the matter with a suitable member of HR seeking advice as appropriate. Having made his/her decision he/she will inform the employee verbally as soon as possible and then confirm it in writing normally within five working days. The manager conducting the appeal will quash or confirm the sanction. If the employee has a complaint against the behaviour of a manager during the course of the performance improvement procedure he/she may raise it as a grievance with a more senior manager, under the grievance resolution procedure. Where necessary the performance improvement procedure may be suspended for a short period so that the grievance can be considered. Record keeping All formal performance improvement procedures cases must be registered from the outset with HR who will allocate them an individual number, monitor progress and provide advice and guidance in relation to this policy and procedure. A diversity monitoring form should be completed early in the process by the employee who is the subject of the procedure and forwarded to HR in order to assist with diversity monitoring practice. At the conclusion of the disciplinary process the papers will be forwarded to the head of employee relations for confidential filing and retention in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and OFT Policy.
  9. 9. Annexe A Meetings to discuss performance issues Ten suggestions to help managers Remember in cases of poor performance your aim should always be to encourage improvement and bring the individual's performance up to an acceptable standard. Performance If an individual consistently fails to meet objectives then their performance may be unacceptable. An individual's performance would not be unacceptable if it was beyond their control to meet the objectives. But if they have failed to meet important objectives that were within their control, then it may be that their performance is unacceptable. Similarly if an individual consistently fails to demonstrate any of the behaviours or skills required for their role then their performance may also be unacceptable. Evidence Make sure that you have prepared adequately for the meeting and have established all the facts and issues known at this stage. When engaged in the formal performance improvement process it is advisable to have a note taker present to make notes of the salient points rather than a verbatim record. It is advisable to notify the employee in advance that a note taker will be present and also their identity. The notes should be agreed with the individual. Self awareness Consider your own core beliefs before the meeting. Put aside any personal views, prejudice or bias about the individual and be totally objective. Keep an open mind and evaluate all the reasonable arguments the individual makes in response to your concerns.
  10. 10. Contributory factors Prior to the meeting give some thought to factors that may have contributed to the unsatisfactory performance, particularly where the individual had previously been rated an effective performer either by you or a previous manager. Examine your own behaviours, have you provided sufficient support, coaching and training? Have you made it clear what is expected of the individual and are their objectives achievable? Also try to see things from the individual's point of view. How would you feel in their position? Communication The meeting is about information gathering as well as conveying messages so listening skills are important. Ensure there is a clear understanding of what is being said by all parties by asking open questions and agreeing points and action wherever possible. Produce evidence to support any shortcomings but also acknowledge the individuals achievements. Body language These meetings are never easy and it is usual for parties to be nervous and defensive. A relaxed and open body posture is desirable accompanied by calm, clear and unhurried speech. Keep eye contact level and steady but avoid glaring. Fairness Ensure you are fair and objective and apply the same approach to all team members whilst acknowledging that individuals have differing levels of experience, competence and workload. Remember tackling an individual about work issues does not amount to bullying, harassment or victimisation providing it is done in a fair, reasonable and respectful manner. Conflict Be prepared for the individual to be unhappy with the situation and have a strategy for dealing with any emotional outbursts that may include anger and tears. Acknowledge their feelings as well as the facts and be supportive. Avoid
  11. 11. confrontation by remaining calm and respectful at all times even in the face of provocation. Never raise your voice or enter into an argument - where emotions are running high an adjournment or a postponement of the meeting is generally the best course of action. Review periods The time period set for an individual to achieve performance improvements will vary from case to case. However as a guide the time period should be no less than one month and no more than three months, the exact length depending on: • the nature of the performance problem • how easily it can be solved • availability and nature of specific training needs. Written records It is necessary to keep written records of each stage of the process and maintain a file of evidence. These records should be in hard copy as well as soft copy and although they should be kept confidential the individual involved should be aware and have sight of all documentation. It should also be understood that e-mails and notes together with formal documentation about cases may be subject to disclosure and therefore it is essential that any documentation is written in a responsible and professional manner. At the conclusion of the process the papers will be forwarded to HR for confidential filing and retention in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and OFT Policy.

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