Dealing with poor performance

Disciplinary and grievance matters

You may need to take disciplinary action against an employee in the case of poor performance or unsatisfactory performance i.e. when your personal assistant is not doing the job in the way you want them to.

You should have written disciplinary rules and procedures to deal with employee performance and conduct and you must tell your staff about them. GOV.UK has some information on making your disciplinary rules and procedures available to your PA.

Your rules must say what acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace is and what action you will take if the rules are broken.

The rules should follow the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. You can find more about that, along with a link to the ACAS code of practice on the GOV.UK website.

Sometimes it will be your employee who is unhappy. If your employee has a concern or problem that they have not been able to resolve informally, they may make a formal grievance complaint to you which you will need to know how to handle

Dealing with disciplinary matters and grievances can be particularly stressful and you should take as many steps as you can to prevent the problems arising in the first place. There is information on preventing problems in the Managing your PA toolkit from Skills for Care.

Things to think about 

We have listed some things below to think about to try and avoid problems with your personal assistant:

  • Give your personal assistant a job description when they start working for you. Your personal assistant should know what is expected of them.
  • Go through the job description with your personal assistant. You should make every effort to ensure that they understand what is expected of them.
  • If your personal assistant does something which you are not happy with or fails to do something, let them know what they are doing wrong.
  • It is better to deal with problems as they happen. Sometimes things can sort themselves out without any need to take formal action, such as issuing your personal assistant with a warning.
  • Keep a written note of these conversations (the date, the time and what was discussed). Keeping notes will show that you have raised your concerns with the personal assistant.
  • As with disciplinary cases if you are thinking of dismissing your personal assistant on the grounds of incapability you must follow a procedure which adheres to the ACAS Code of Practice.
  • You should always carry out a thorough investigation before taking any disciplinary action.
  • Always explain to your personal assistant, in writing, clearly what your concerns are and in the same letter invite them to a meeting so that they can be discussed face to face. You should inform them they have a right to be accompanied by a trade union representative, workplace colleague or a friend, if any. If you do not, your personal assistant will not be clear about the problem and is less likely to improve and, if you later try to dismiss them, the dismissal may be found to be unfair.
  • You need to give your personal assistant an opportunity to put their side of the situation forward. If you do not consider any reasons or views that your personal assistant puts forward, any subsequent dismissal may be unfair.

Some questions to ask yourself if you are considering taking formal action such as a warning or dismissal:

  • Is it a conduct issue (can do it but will not) or a capability issue (wants to do it but cannot)? Look at the evidence you have collected.
  • Have you given your personal assistant an opportunity to improve? Unless the consequence of the mistake is serious, or potentially serious, and you cannot take the risk for the mistake to happen, you should give your personal assistant reasonable time to improve.
  • Are there other genuine reasons why your personal assistant is not performing e.g. personal issues? Have you tried to help him/her with these?
  • Was your personal assistant aware that if he/she did not improve then he/she may be dismissed?
  • Have you applied the expectation about standards of performance to your other personal assistants who work for you or have worked for you in the past?
  • Have you taken into account the length of service and employment record of your personal assistant?
  • Can you offer any alternative employment? For example, the personal assistant not doing the full range of duties of the role?
  • Have you considered reasonable adjustments if your personal assistant has a disability?
  • Is dismissal a reasonable and proportionate response in the circumstances? 

Further help

The lists above are intended to help you think about things in relation to the performance of your personal assistant. Employment law is complicated and changes frequently. You should not rely on this section alone when dealing with a disciplinary situation. You should always get specialist advice and support before disciplining or dismissing someone.  

You can get further help from the ACAS website or by contacting their helpline on 0300 123 1100 (text relay service 18001 0300 123 1100). 

You can find out more about disciplinary procedures, including a sample disciplinary form, in the Skills for Care toolkit.

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