It is prudent to deal with problems early on, whether poor performance, lack of training, personality issues or plain misconduct. Leaving a problem unaddressed can weaken your legal position later.

These situations can be awkward in small businesses but, in the long run, dealing with a problem early will usually be the best strategy.

As an employer, you are entitled to address issues with an employee's performance or behaviour. Key tips in this area are as follows:  be clear about the problem  be prepared to listen to the employee  be reasonable and consistent in your approach  be clear about what you want to happen  take notes of conversations or follow up with an email as a record of what happened.

The first two years of employment are a key period for addressing these issues – after this all employees acquire the right not to be unfairly dismissed, which will place additional obligations and liabilities on your business.

As your business grows, you will want to introduce a formal disciplinary procedure and a grievance process to help manage issues.

If problems continue, it can be useful to bring in a trained third party to mediate or to conduct a disciplinary or grievance processes.

additional sick pay is a matter for you, but it is a good idea to set out any entitlement in a policy or contract.


Where sickness cases involve disability, there can be additional responsibilities. You cannot discriminate directly or indirectly against a job applicant or employee because of, or because of something arising in consequence of, a disability (see Discrimination below).

You may be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments where a job applicant or employee is placed at a substantial disadvantage because of their disability. Examples of potential adjustments include:

 making adjustments to premises  providing information in accessible formats e.g. braille or audio tape

 allocating some of a disabled person's duties to another worker

 altering a disabled worker's hours of work  modifying procedures for testing or assessment.

This can be particularly difficult for employers where an employee's disability is not clearly apparent, for example, if they suffer from dyslexia, dyspraxia, epilepsy or depression or another mental health problem. It is important to be mindful of the possibility that a disability could be "hidden" – even the employee themselves may not be fully aware of its practical impact or legal consequences.


Simple cases It is advisable to have a basic absence reporting procedure in place which sets out when and how employees must tell you about sickness absence.

Employees are allowed up to seven days' continuous sickness absence without providing a fit note signed by a medical professional. For longer absences they must provide a fit note.

Employees who earn above the earnings threshold can qualify for statutory sick pay. Whether you offer any

A quiet word… In many situations where an individual's performance is falling short, or their behaviour is inappropriate, the first step will be to talk to them informally about it in order to understand the problem, think about possible solutions, or even give them a verbal warning.

The law encourages this sort of approach and it can be effective in practical terms in addressing problems early on.

Make a file note of the meeting with the employee, or send them a follow-up email summarising what was discussed and what is now required of them.

In more serious cases, or if the problems persist, you will want to have a more formal meeting.

Wedlake Bell’s Key Knowledge Guide to Employment Law for New Businesses


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