I wish I had a dollar for every time a client has said ‘Joe, is off sick again – he is never at work – when he is, he does a bad job’ … ‘can we just terminate his employment?’
Sickness, Illness and Disability are not lawful reasons for termination of employment; indeed any good employer, who values their workers would be doing everything possible to support their worker through the illness and get them back to work as soon as possible. You can not sack someone for being sick!
However, the situation does arise where a business has a worker who is underperforming and gets sick. This is a very tricky situation to manage.
The worst thing any business or manager can do with underperforming staff is, to do nothing. Stick your head in the sand, and hope that the issue goes away, or miraculously that the worker will somehow, without any intervention, suddenly improve at work. We wish! What should happen is that as soon as you see a worker not performing, you take steps to performance manage that person. This might include informal and formal steps.
• re-training and most importantly giving time for the worker to show improvement.
Most businesses fail in this respect. They have not shown procedural justice in terms of showing a worker where they are not performing, making sure they understand what they need to do to improve and then giving them time to do so. As soon as you have staff not working to expectation, always start some form of performance management. Document this as you go in terms of diary notes, emails, and even formal warnings a little further down the track.
Where you have not done this and you have an underperforming worker, who then compounds the issue by becoming sick, you need to tread very carefully. You need to fully separate the two issues:
You can’t just start your performance management now that the person is sick, because it suits you, to get rid of them while they are not working. You must support your worker with their illness and work with them to facilitate their return to work. You need to deal with the illness issue first.
Once you have your worker back in the fold, after a reasonable period of time, introduce your performance management to address their performance issue. Before you terminate any employment based on performance, make sure you can prove the following:
1. You identified the areas of poor performance and communicated these to the worker;
2. You discussed with the worker, why their performance is lacking and what can be done to assist them to increase their performance;
3. You provided the worker with training, coaching or mentoring to assist them to improve performance;
4. You gave the worker a reasonable amount of time to improve with meetings along the way to assess improvement;
5. You only terminated the employment of the worker, after they were well, back at work and you can show clearly, the steps you took to assist the worker and most importantly the time frame you gave them to improve.
You might show steps 1-4 as happening a number of times.
Don’t know how to performance manage? Have Kathryn MacMillan, CIRCLE Recruitment & HR Managing Director present to your managers and teach them how to safely and effectively performance manage. Contact CIRCLE Recruitment & HR on 1300 923 000
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