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HR 101 – What to do When . . . You Want to Dismiss Staff – Part 8

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practices.

Today we are going to look at Incapacity and Poor work performance and the guidelines for dismissing someone for this:

To ensure that the staff member is given every opportunity to improve the following must take place, where appropriate:

– the staff member’s work performance should be evaluated on a regular basis,
– staff should be given instruction that is in a clear and concise language that is easily understood, so as to avoid miscommunication’
– staff should be given training that pertains to the position that they work in,
– staff should be encouraged to have mentors within the organization who would be able to guide them and steer them in the right direction,
– should the employer still find that the employee is struggling to meet laid down requirements or criteria, counseling sessions should take place in an endeavor to get the staff member to render satisfactory service.

“In the event that a new employee fails to meet the criteria in terms of work performance, the employer should not dismiss the employee until the employee has had an opportunity to state their case or to respond to the allegations.” In other words, the employer would need to follow the usual disciplinary procedures.

A new employee should also not be dismissed unless the previous requirements in terms of evaluation, instruction, training, guidance counseling, etc., had been met. Should the staff member still continuously fail to perform in a satisfactory manner, disciplinary procedures must be followed prior to the dismissal.

As always the procedure leading to the dismissal must include an investigation to establish the reasons for the unsatisfactory performance. Both the employer and the employee should try to think of other ways to remedy the matter – other than dismissal. Dismissal should always be a last resort.

The employee also has the right to be heard and has the right to be assisted by another employee, colleague, or union member. The employee also has the right to seek assistance and guidance from the HR department.

The guidelines for dismissal for poor work performance should also include but not be limited to:

a. whether or not the employee failed to meet the performance standard or criteria for the position that they fill,
b. if the employee did not meet the required standard or criteria whether or not this was not met because,
i. the employee was aware, or could reasonably be expected to be aware of the required performance standard – for example, Joe used to be a waiter at the Wimpy where the cutlery was wrapped up in a paper serviette and placed on the table for patrons to help themselves. Joe now works in a 5-star hotel restaurant, where the waiters are expected to lay the cutlery out in a specific manner for specific courses. Joe has no clue what the difference is between the cutlery and what it is supposed to be used for. If Joe is dismissed at this point you will be inviting trouble in through the door.
ii. the employee was given a fair opportunity to meet the required performance standard – for example, Jane has never worked an electronic touch till before and the salesperson who installed it showed all the staff members how to operate it in a 15-minute demonstration. There are no operator manuals with instructions and Jane is completely out of her depth. If Jane is dismissed at this point you are inviting trouble in through the door.
iii. if the dismissal was an appropriate sanction for not meeting the required performance standard – for example, Alex started as a data capturer in the financial department in a large corporate. Alex has only done data capturing on Pastel and can capture 150 units a minute with consistent accuracy. This company uses SAP and after the first month, Alex’s speed is only at 50 units a minute. If Alex is dismissed at this point you are inviting trouble in through the door.

Clearly from the above, it can be seen that dismissing someone for poor work performance can be done and it is not that difficult, providing of course that you follow the correct procedures consistently.

Next week we will have a look at Dismissal due to Incapacity and Ill Health.