How not to get sacked

It’s fairly predictable that the increasing financial pressure on Councils, the likelihood of a serious shakeup leading to amalgamations and other arrangements, and even the appointment of new senior staff and general managers will provide a sharpened focus on making sure that people employed by councils are doing what they’re paid for.

There has been an increase in the performance management of our members over recent months, so it’s timely to say something about job security and how to avoid getting sacked.

It’s not very complicated. The assumption in the employment relationship is that the Council will employ people to do the job competently with reasonable expectations about how much work they do, and how well they do it.

Apart from general managers and other senior staff under the dreadful DLG Standard Contract, no-one ever gets sacked for doing the job properly. But employees can find themselves being performance managed for a variety of reasons and they can include being lethargic, hopeless managers of time and process, failing to accept their accountability and that some things are their responsibility, imprecise, slack on making sure documents are right, lazy and a whole range of other issues. We’ve had members asleep at their desks, habitually and chronically unpunctual, unreliable, bullying etc etc.

When a Council begins a performance management process they do so with the expectation that the employee’s performance improves. It’s easier for the Council to have employees performing competently than it is to keep performance managing people who are not. Existing employees have an advantage over an unknown replacement because they are familiar with the area, often have considerable corporate knowledge, understand the values of the organisation, and so on.

No one likes sacking people, even people who are hopeless. Sorry about that, but there are some. Clearly not our members, of course.

There are two options from the performance management process. The employee can actually do the job properly, which avoids getting sacked and makes life easier for everyone (including other members who work with them) or the employee doesn’t and, if the employee doesn’t, then follows what can be an irretrievable process that will end badly.

The Award provides guidance to councils and obligations about disciplinary process and this includes performance management. depa’s role is giving advice and representation to members who find themselves, either because of their behaviour or their performance, being investigated and/or  having their performance managed. We don’t have a silver bullet and we can’t get people off, for want of a better expression, who aren’t living up to their part of the employment bargain.

There are occasions, of course, where management can be unfair or unreasonable, discriminatory or even vindictive. They are a small number of performance management and disciplinary processes and we can fix these.

There is now a recognised an implied term of “confidence and trust” between an employer and an employee that is gaining an increasing legal prominence and authority. It means that we can enforce good behaviour on employers but the corollary of that is employers can expect good behaviour and performance, and a “fair day’s work” (to quote a nice old-fashioned expression about expectations in employment) from their employees.

This has been a cautionary note. If you find yourself in a process like this, we would much rather know at the beginning, than at the end. Don’t be one of those employees who waits until they get their third and final warning before they ask for advice. Its too late then.

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