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What’s the Difference Between Performance Management and Disciplinary Action?

Published June 10, 2021 (last updated June 17, 2021) Author: Employsure

Many employers find performance management, or instigating disciplinary action against employees for misconduct, difficult and emotionally challenging. It can be hard for an employer to distinguish between misconduct and underperformance; it’s harder still managing an employee through either a disciplinary or a performance management process with confidence.

 If you are required to take management action, to help you gain confidence in your processes which in turn may help you to build a better business, we have set out some differences between performance management and disciplinary action below.  

What is Disciplinary Action?

If an employee is behaving improperly in the workplace, an employer may need to raise and address concerns regarding the employee’s conduct by means of a formal disciplinary process.

Employers should introduce and implement policies and procedures in line with the expected standards of behaviour in the workplace, so employees know what is considered acceptable conduct. These policies should be made available to all employees and the employer should be consistent in applying and enforcing these policies.

Disciplinary action is usually taken to address misconduct, which is defined as behaviour in the workplace which is generally unacceptable, or contrary to the employment contract, or breaches policies and procedures of a company.

What Are Some Examples of Misconduct?

Misconduct is behaviour that is considered unacceptable and inconsistent with employee obligations or duties, i.e., a breach of company policy or procedure.

Examples include:

  • unauthorised absences (including ‘sickies’)
  • lateness
  • bad language
  • poor presentation
  • misuse of company equipment

Serious Misconduct

Serious misconduct is defined as wilful and deliberate behaviour that is inconsistent with the continuation of the employment contract or causes serious and imminent risk to the reputation, viability or profitability of the business, or health and safety of a person. Examples includes theft, fraud, and assault.

Provided a fair process is followed, serious misconduct may give an employer grounds for instant, or summary, dismissal which means the employee is not provided with notice, or payment of notice in lieu.

Appropriate Standards of Behaviour

It needs to be noted that not all misconduct is clear and obvious. For example, getting into a fight at work is clearly and obviously inappropriate behaviour in any workplace, however, expected behaviour when using company equipment may vary from business to business. It’s important to ensure that you’ve implemented – and consistently applied – a thorough code of conduct or standards of behaviour policy in your workplace in case an employee disputes an allegation of misconduct.

What is Performance Management?

Performance management is used to address poor performance.

Poor performance is where an employee is not meeting the essential requirements of their role. If an employee is underperforming – for example failing to hit KPIs or unable to meet their remit due to lack of skills an employer may consider entering the employee into a performance management process.  

As part of a fair process, the employer should identify the issue e.g., where skills are lacking, inform the employee and provide further training where appropriate. The employer should put in place a plan of action to address the performance issues and to give the employee an opportunity to improve to the required standard. Performance management should only address the requirements of the role, not behaviour in the workplace; it should be clear that misconduct is not poor performance.

While part of the performance management process is similar to disciplinary procedures, it is important for employers to not conflate the two concepts.

If you’d like to know more about performance management, download our free guide made just for employers.

Performance Management: The Ultimate Employer Guide

Improve your management skills, learn more about your rights and enhance your processes with the assistance of this essential guide.

What’s the Difference?

A performance management process may result in further training or a performance management plan (PMP), or performance improvement plan (PIP), an opportunity to improve their performance.

A disciplinary procedure may not result in a behavioral management plan as it is not an employer’s responsibility to ensure their employees act reasonably and appropriately in the workplace. An employer’s duty is only to remind them of their expected behaviour in the workplace and ensure they abide by it.

To find out more about disciplinary action process, we have a guide made just for employers.

Free e-Guide on Disciplinary Action

This guide can help you better understand what you need to do when going through a disciplinary action process.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of Australia’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 28,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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