Anonymous
Share this content
0
3774

Employee working intentionally slow. What to do?

An employee is intentionally working slow and actually causing us to lose money.

Didn't find your answer?

Search AccountingWEB

An employee has decided that he no longer wants to work here and is actively seeking another job. This has been going on for some time as he's struggling to find alternative employment.

During that time, his working speed as become increasingly slower and less productive. On a couple of occassions he has taken almost quadrauple the amount of time to complete a job than expected (it takes prettty much the same time every year) so we have been left with two options:

1. Increase the clients fee, almost certainly resulting in them becoming disgruntled.
2. Keep the clients fee the same, but we would effectively then be paying the employee MORE than we charge the client and lose money.

We have arranged a disciplinary hearing with the employee and will almost certainly issue a first written warning. Have a couple of questions though:

- How long do we have to allow him to improve his performance before issuing a second written warning?
- Issuing a first, second and final warning will take some time. During which, we may continue to lose money. Is there any other swifter action we can take?

Replies

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
04th Jun 2019 12:32

1. Depends on how long the job takes. I f you can honestly say 'it is reasonable for you to complete this in a week' and they don't, then second disciplinary is in a weeks time. If not the whole job, then a milestone

2. Usually you have to swallow this as the price for not addressing the issue sooner...

What is may happen is that as soon as you do (1) they will go sick with work related stress and you will have to get someone else to do the owrk anyway...

Thanks (1)
By DJKL
to WhichTyler
04th Jun 2019 12:36

Concur re your last point, at which point you end up walking on eggshells, paying solicitors for advice re the process and seriously wondering why you would ever have had any employees in the first place.

Thanks (1)
04th Jun 2019 12:39

Speak to someone in HR, could be very costly down the line if you get it wrong.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By Maslins
04th Jun 2019 12:46

I don't see how you can justify charging the client more given your explanation...so you've got to take it on the chin.

Re the employee, my basic understanding, have they been with you more/less than 2 years?
- If <2 years then barring accusations of discrimination against you, I don't think they can sue for unfair dismissal...so you can pretty much just fire them (paying notice period etc).
- If it's >2 years you do need to go through the motions of multiple disciplinary stages, and I'd recommend you at least speak to ACAS, if not a paid HR adviser/solicitor.

Thanks (2)
avatar
to Maslins
04th Jun 2019 12:51

Quote:

- If <2 years then barring accusations of discrimination against you, I don't think they can sue for unfair dismissal...so you can pretty much just fire them (paying notice period etc).
>

Is that true or just a common myth? I'm not an expert in employment law, so wouldn't know. But effectively, they could just dismiss the person for poor performance and the employee can't take action for unfair dismissal?

Thanks (1)
to Lee11_1989
04th Jun 2019 13:10

You need to send him down the capabilities route.

Give him and action plan and review it each week, set him hard targets, he will either improve or crumble, he will then walk or you can dismiss as he is unable to carry out the duties he was hired to do.

Get hR advice if you are not sure, but as Maslins says if he has not got more than 2 years service you can get rid quite easily.

Thanks (0)
avatar
to Lee11_1989
04th Jun 2019 14:24

It's true - see http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1797. But as the article says, dismissal should be a last resort.

Before you go down a disciplinary route, I'd suggest checking whether there is anything behind the poor performance - such as problems outside work, needing training on some new system.

Time between stages of your process is really a question giving reasonable opportunity for improvement. I think I'd be setting short-period targets -"this is what I want you to do today" - and checking in at the end of each day. If he improves, you can extend the interval, if there is no sign of progress, it's reasonable to move to a second disciplinary stage within a week or two.

Thanks (3)
avatar
to Lee11_1989
04th Jun 2019 15:18

I've been told the same by an employment law solicitor. That in order to take your employer to an employment tribunal you have to have worked for them for 2 years.

So although firing them without the proper diciplinary procedure may not legally be the right thing to do. The employee has no way bringing any kind of action against the employer.

Apparently it used to be one year but David Cameron increased it to two.

Thanks (2)
By mrme89
to pdtaylor78
04th Jun 2019 17:37

Unless the reason of dismissal is because of a protected characteristic. In which case, they could then take the employer to an employment tribunal.

Thanks (0)
avatar
to pdtaylor78
04th Jun 2019 21:04

Probably the only positive contribution he made whilst PM.

Thanks (0)
avatar
to Lee11_1989
04th Jun 2019 22:58

Quote:

Quote:
- If <2 years then barring accusations of discrimination against you, I don't think they can sue for unfair dismissal...so you can pretty much just fire them (paying notice period etc).
>

Is that true or just a common myth? I'm not an expert in employment law, so wouldn't know. But effectively, they could just dismiss the person for poor performance and the employee can't take action for unfair dismissal?

This is true. It happened to me about 5 years ago. The rule used to be 1yr, but the tribunal courts were so back logged that they changed it to 2 years to remove 90% of future cases.

As long as there’s no hint of touching the race/sex/ orientation/disability/pregnant cards, just get rid of them, put them on gardening leave & pay their notice. If they could even claim any of the above, then speak to a HR helpline (we’ve used the FSB one before when we thought a trainee was going to play the disability/long term sickness card). They’ll make sure you keep on the right side of the line - we got sent guidances, what you can & cant do or say, template letters etc.

Thanks (2)
avatar
to Lee11_1989
07th Jun 2019 13:19

Seems to be true.

A client of mine is currently having ongoing discussions with his employer via ACAS conciliation and they have confirmed this to be the case.

The client's exact words to me were, "The ACAS advisor said that as you have been working for less than 2 years, the employer can get rid of you (with notice/PILON, holidays, bonuses due, etc) for not liking the colour of your eyes (as long as they don't tell you this!) and you have to accept".

Thanks (1)
avatar
to Lee11_1989
07th Jun 2019 13:52

The law was changed a few years ago to prevent an employee claiming unfair dismissal (other than for discrimination) if they have been there for less than 2 years. Previously, it was only 1 year. It was, in my opinion, a very bad move for staff as employers should be able to judge an employees performance in 12 months! Especially since firms, themselves, usually only have a 3 month probation period or, even if they extend that because of concerns, it is only for another 3 months. It has meant that a firm can hire someone to come in, get everything up to date & running smoothly & then get rid of them to employ someone far more basic (& hence cheaper) to carry on. I have suffered this in my last couple of employments.

Thanks (1)
avatar
04th Jun 2019 14:15

Quote:

An employee has decided that he no longer wants to work here and is actively seeking another job.

What evidence do you have of that, as a matter of interest?

Thanks (1)
avatar
04th Jun 2019 14:32

I would start with the question - why does he not want to work for you. If there is something you can do to help him to become more engaged the situation may be retrievable.

Before i started the disciplinary process i would also have a protected rights conversation along the lines of do you really want this on your employment history. I would also up the stakes as I would consider deliberately working slow (eg taking four times to do the job) could potentially be gross misconduct in which case if you follow process the timescale is a lot quicker. It is a very brave employee who would want that on their record. I would also take advice and consider taking out employment law insurance (of variable quality) as they have a habit of being risk adverse. Be careful with the contract as some tie you in for five years.

In terms of time my personal view is about a month between warnings if you can't win on gross misconduct.

Thanks (0)
avatar
04th Jun 2019 14:32

I would start with the question - why does he not want to work for you. If there is something you can do to help him to become more engaged the situation may be retrievable.

Before i started the disciplinary process i would also have a protected rights conversation along the lines of do you really want this on your employment history. I would also up the stakes as I would consider deliberately working slow (eg taking four times to do the job) could potentially be gross misconduct in which case if you follow process the timescale is a lot quicker. It is a very brave employee who would want that on their record. I would also take advice and consider taking out employment law insurance (of variable quality) as they have a habit of being risk adverse. Be careful with the contract as some tie you in for five years.

In terms of time my personal view is about a month between warnings if you can't win on gross misconduct.

Thanks (1)
avatar
04th Jun 2019 14:34

Did you also suffer a theft?

Thanks (0)
avatar
to memyself-eye
05th Jun 2019 08:00

Quote:

Did you also suffer a theft?

Haha it looks like its indeed the same person:

https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=6009539

Thanks (1)
avatar
to thestudyman
06th Jun 2019 09:39

https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/accused-of-theft-by-an-employee

Perhaps the boss does have a vendetta against the employee!

Seems to be looking for any excuse for a dismissal.

Thanks (0)
avatar
04th Jun 2019 15:05

This is where procedures and policies come in unless you can negotiate a compromise agreement. Starting a competency procedure (if you have one) is a good idea.

Thanks (0)
04th Jun 2019 16:51

No matter how straightforward it seems, it is money well spent to get a good HR adviser on board. You should anyway get the employment contracts reviewed annually.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By zarar
04th Jun 2019 19:58

How long has he been there?

Are you giving him a budget of hours on jobs?

Is someone monitoring him rather than letting him get through whole job before you pick up there is an issue?

Thanks (0)
avatar
05th Jun 2019 22:56

Im guessing you can check his progress. So provide a budget sheet to help him and agree how its calculated at the start so he buys into it. Then hold him to account on a job by job basis.

PITA but you have to help staff not fail, so that seems like it would tick those boxes.

I cant help with legal timeframes, sorry.

Thanks (0)
avatar
05th Jun 2019 23:30

Going by the MSE thread, the employee has worked for you for 2 years and 1 month, so that rules out just dismissing him, unless you go down the gross misconduct route.

Thanks (0)
avatar
to legerman
06th Jun 2019 07:07

SeagulFTB wrote:

but has been employed by the company since May 2018.

Quote:

Going by the MSE thread, the employee has worked for you for 2 years and 1 month, so that rules out just dismissing him, unless you go down the gross misconduct route.

??
Thanks (0)
avatar
to Wanderer
06th Jun 2019 10:12

oooops should teach me to read properly, and do simple calculations.

Thanks (0)
avatar
07th Jun 2019 10:47

Speak to an HR consultants - you may have to negotiate a pay off to the satisfaction of everyone?

Thanks (0)
07th Jun 2019 12:33

How large is your firm?

If a large outfit then simply move him onto unimportant work that isn't time sensitive, you certainly cannot charge your clients extra as they would have absolute grounds to take you to court for overcharging them due to your own staff's incompetence in view of what you say.

If you are a smaller firm then this employee is a luxury you cannot afford and you need to get rid of him immediately. Unfair dismissal claims vary depending on the length of his employment and it might be cheaper to pay him a couple of thousand just to get rid of him, better than losing clients. I'm sure a HR specialist or employment solicitor could give you a fair estimate of what he might get, if anything, at an employment tribunal. If you can prove he is deliberately on a "go slow" then a tribunal would probably award him nothing.

I'd be tempted to have a conversation along the lines of "you don't want to be here, we don't want you, here's a cheque, goodbye".

Thanks (3)
avatar
07th Jun 2019 12:44

The legal situation is that with less than 2 years employment, the employee cannot claim unfair dismissal unless they believe they have been discriminated against because of a protected characteristic -

What are protected characteristics?
It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of:

age
disability
gender reassignment
marriage and civil partnership
pregnancy and maternity
race
religion or belief
sex
sexual orientation
These are called protected characteristics.

You are protected under the Equality Act 2010 from these types of discrimination.

If any of these apply you WILL need to take advice. In any case, you should probably take advice from an HR specialist about how best to proceed. They may well say, looking at the situation, just pay them their notice and ask them to leave. Or they may advise a more detailed series of steps which will take a lot longer to implement.

Good luck!

Thanks (1)
07th Jun 2019 12:52

There is not much you can do other than grin and bear it. It is no secret that accountants pay the least amount possible to each employee, relying on their desperation to stick to the job. It is also no secret that accountants have a very harsh tongue when they criticize their employees so it usually isn't long before someone with brains and guts decides to leave. I have witnessed part qualified staff being told off badly in front of others for being 5 minutes late to work and even for filling too much water in the kettle as it will take longer to boil. "Only fill the kettle with enough water for one cup of tea so that you can be at your desk sooner and it saves electricity", he used to roar. As for sitting on the toilet longer than 5 minutes, twice a day max - forget it. Every minute counts when you work for a practice and the practice owner has no problems in cracking the whip at each and every occasion.

You can console yourself by the fact that you paid him less than what he was really worth for the time that he was with you, so you have saved some money. That is the reason why he is leaving you. Now you can use some of those savings to offset his slow work at the end.

There is no legal course of action you can take other than issuing a first, second and final warning. If you want to go illegal, you could always warn him unofficially that his actions would affect the reference that you give him after he has left, but then that would be illegal and he might take you to the industrial tribunal for that. You are not allowed to give your employees a bad reference anyways by law unless they have committed fraud or committed a criminal offense but then we both know that bad references are very common over the phone nowadays.

So its just a matter of gritting your teeth and smiling till he leaves. Ever considered creating a happy, well paid environment within your practice so that your employees stay with you for years and years? Most practice owners earn a lot and live in mansions and drive the latest BMWs and Mercedes Benz. My last employer used to drive a Jaguar and used to live in a mansion with a swimming pool because he used to underpay all of us under the pretext that he was still training us to become proficient accountants some even 10 years later (those were the slow ones like in your case above).

Do update us how this situation ends when it eventually does. Good Luck.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Maslins
to Nefertiti
07th Jun 2019 14:02

A little one sided perhaps?!

Thanks (0)
to Nefertiti
07th Jun 2019 14:42

Quote:

There is no legal course of action you can take other than issuing a first, second and final warning.

Most practice owners earn a lot and live in mansions and drive the latest BMWs and Mercedes Benz.

Are you sure you are not the employee in question ?

Thanks (1)
to Retired Dave
14th Jun 2019 15:10

Quote:

Quote:

There is no legal course of action you can take other than issuing a first, second and final warning.

Most practice owners earn a lot and live in mansions and drive the latest BMWs and Mercedes Benz.

Are you sure you are not the employee in question ?

LOL I bet you are now going to say that you personally only drive a Reliant Robin 3 wheeler?

Thanks (0)
to Nefertiti
14th Jun 2019 15:23

I prefer an Audi myself.

Mercs are old mans cars.

Thanks (0)
to Glennzy
14th Jun 2019 17:00

Don't drive round our way then. My wife has very negative opinions about Audi drivers.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Maslins
to Nefertiti
14th Jun 2019 16:29

16 year old Golf for me. Everyone's different, but accountants tend to skew towards the frugal/non showy/wise investment things.

Thanks (0)
avatar
to Nefertiti
08th Jun 2019 12:50

have you worked in an accountancy practice, it sounds more like a Victorian workhouse to me!!

The vast majority of practices are good & responsible employers, I'd say the OP falls into this category by seeking advice, rather than just being done with it, and booting this individual out the door.

Thanks (0)
to Nefertiti
14th Jun 2019 15:22

This reminds me of that Eminem song, are you Stan.

Thanks (0)
avatar
07th Jun 2019 14:59

Everyone is blithely talking about 2 years - my recollection is that the actual time is 104 weeks (including accrued holiday).

Thanks (0)
avatar
By itp3e
07th Jun 2019 15:05

Shoot him. Problem solved.

Thanks (0)
avatar
08th Jun 2019 17:37

Fire him

Thanks (0)
avatar
to Rgab1947
08th Jun 2019 18:33

Quote:

Fire him

Same as "shoot him"?

Thanks (0)
avatar
to thestudyman
09th Jun 2019 21:55

Quote:

Quote:

Fire him

Same as "shoot him"?

Not quite as drastic.
Plus not illegal (2years blah blah blah).

Thanks (0)
avatar
14th Jun 2019 16:59

Aygo here.

Had a 20 mile round trip twice a day when the kids were at school, so it was an economic choice. I still have it as its reliable but if it lets me down, it will go! I care little for what car but its got to be reliable.

Thanks (0)
17th Jun 2019 01:56

Electric cattle prod!

Ouch!

Works for lazy cows!

Thanks (0)
Share this content