Q. I attended a seminar for HR professionals last month where the instructor discussed the value of offering performance improvement plans and last-chance warnings to employees before they are terminated. Is my company obligated to offer these plans or warnings?
A. No. However, you should consider offering them anyway. In many instances, providing an employee with one last chance will help to establish that your motives were lawful, and that the employee’s inability to succeed in the job was the employee’s fault, not yours.
Using performance improvement plans and last-chance warnings as a final step can also help to salvage the employment relationship. Even when things do not improve, having taken these steps can help defend against employment lawsuits.
When using performance improvement plans or last-chance warnings, it is wise to provide written and oral feedback to the employee that spells out all of the issues of significance. Give details on your performance expectations going forward. The warning should make clear the seriousness of the concerns, and the assistance that the company will provide the employee to help turn things around.
Although last-chance warnings are often advisable, there are times when such steps are unnecessary and not in the company’s best interests. When an employee engages in severe misconduct, you need the flexibility to terminate the employment relationship without further warning.
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