The best way to handle performance issues is through a robust performance or capability policy. This policy should be aimed at improving the standard of performance rather than as a way of punishing or dismissing the employee.
If you are noticing that an employee is failing to perform at an acceptable level then it is advisable as a first step to pull them to one side for an informal conversation. The aim of this should be to see if there are any underlying personal issues that are affecting performance and then point the employee in the right direction. Hopefully this will resolve the issue at an early stage.
However, if it does not then they it may be necessary to take things to the next level by sitting down with the employee and agreeing a performance improvement plan. As part of this plan you can set objectives for the employee to meet and arrange progress meetings every week or month. Annual appraisals are another useful tool to measure employee performance.
When reviewing an employee's performance it may also be necessary to look at what you as a business can do to improve the situation. For example, do you need to think about different ways of training staff?
If there is still no sign of improvement then you may wish to take action against the employee. If you are considering disciplinary or even dismissal action then you need to hold a formal meeting and following a fair process. You must give the employee reasonable notice of the meeting and allow them to be accompanied to it by a colleague or trade union representative.
Dismissal should seen as a last resort. It is important give employees a fair chance to improve before you reach this point.
Handling sickness absence can be a very sensitive and tricky issue to deal with. Again, it is best to have a clear policy on absence management which is accessible to staff and applied fairly to all. Whatever the reason for the absence, accurate record keeping and monitoring are essential.
Short term absence
Regular absences of one or two days can cause disruption to your business. It is however important to be mindful of the frequency and timing of these absences. If you notice employees are regularly taking Mondays or Fridays off work then it could be something which you may need to address. However, it is dangerous to assume that all employees who have short term absences are "pulling a sickie". You must take each employee's case on its own merits.
Back to work meetings following a period of absence are an effective way of addressing any issues.
Long term sickness absence
It is important that you maintain regular contact with the employee so you can keep up to date on his or her health condition.
In situations of long term absence it is usually best to consult with a medical professional. This can be by a referral to your Occupational Health team or by writing directly to the employee's GP to ask for a medical opinion. In order to approach an employee's GP you will need to get their consent to do so.
In some cases the employee may have an underlying health condition which if substantial could amount to a disability. If so then you have a legal duty to consider adjustments to the employee's environment, duties or working hours to assist them in returning to work.
If no alternatives are available and after taking medical advice you are clear that there is little chance of the employee being able to return to work in the near future then it may be fair to dismiss the employee.