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Case Study: removing an employee for poor performance

Summary and aim:

To remove a poorly performing employee with the least risk to our client.  

Our client:

A central London recruitment agency.

Summary of the situation and the challenge:

A senior and longstanding employee was not hitting his targets and was not placing enough candidates.  This had been going on for some time.  Our client had tried to support the employee to improve his performance through annual appraisals and informal feedback, but felt that they were paying him a significant base salary and he was not making enough effort himself to improve.  

Steps:

  • We invited the employee to a disciplinary meeting (our client did not have a specific capability process) to discuss the allegations of poor performance.  We suggested to our client that, at the end of this meeting, they hold a without prejudice conversation with the employee to see if he would be interested in discussing a settlement agreement.
  • We provided the client with a guidance note to support them, step by step, through the disciplinary process, including a script for the disciplinary meeting itself.  
  • We suggested that an alternative to carrying out the disciplinary meeting themselves was to use an independent HR adviser (who we could recommend) to hold the disciplinary meeting.  After some consideration, our client decided to undertake the process themselves as this would enable them to have a frank, without prejudice conversation at the end of the meeting.

Outcome:

  • Our client and the employee had a protected/without prejudice conversation at the end of the disciplinary meeting and the employee agreed that a settlement agreement would be mutually beneficial.  He accepted a relatively small ex gratia payment and an agreed reference.  The reference was particularly important to the employee, given the allegation of poor performance.  
  • Our client benefitted from the knowledge that they could revert to the disciplinary process (and our guidance note) and move to dismiss the employee fairly, should the employee seek to negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement.
  • Our client was able to complete the process within just over a week, meaning very little management time was spent on the situation.  

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