Can I dismiss an employee for poor performance?

Published: 14th August, 2017

LCF Law - James Austin - Employment Law SolicitorHarrogate based Employment Law Solicitor, James Austin, describes what the Employment tribunals will be looking at when deciding the difference between a employed worker and a self employed work.

Last month the Office of National Statistics stated that the UK’s productivity is below where it was 10 years ago and productivity per head is below many of our European neighbours. Grim reading. So, whilst I appreciate it won’t make me popular with any employees reading this, I thought I’d look at what employers can do to improve productivity in their businesses.

There can be many reasons for poor productivity in any work environment including:

  • Decrepit machinery which needs to be replaced.
  • Poor motivation across the workforce caused by a lack of incentive (either financially or perhaps in terms of opportunities to progress). This could be addressed through incentive schemes, team building exercises or creating structures which acknowledge employees’ value to the business and their status.
  • An employee (or employees) whose behaviour is holding others back. If that’s the case an employer can take disciplinary action which, depending on the circumstances, could involve a warning(s) or dismissal.

Quite often though the problem relates to an employee or employees who are simply not performing well enough. Many employers feel there is little they can do in these circumstances as the employee may not be doing it intentionally. However, where performance is below the expected level, employers are entitled to take action to try and improve that performance. The process mirrors disciplinary action so involves the employee attending a meeting which can result in them receiving a warning and being set a (reasonable) target to reach within a set period. For example, a salesperson could be required to make £5,000 of sales over the following month. Failure to reach the target can result in a repeat of the process and a final written warning and further target. If they fail to meet that target the process is repeated again and can result in dismissal.

The above is very much an overview of dealing with disciplinary and performance issues. In both cases there is a slightly longer procedure which needs to be followed in order to reduce the prospects of a successful tribunal claim against your business, but it isn’t too onerous. The main point to take away is that you are able to address poor performance.


This article was written by James Austin. James is an Associate in our Corporate Department and is based in Harrogate.

James advises clients on all aspects of employment law including settlement agreements and how to deal with redundancy, disciplinary, performance, grievance and TUPE issues. He has also successfully represented clients bringing/defending claims in the Employment Tribunal.

Further advice please contact James Austin on 01423 851 138 or