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Telephone: 0131 662 6988
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23 Cramond Glebe Rd
Cramond Village
Telephone: 0131 336 1619

Free EnquiryEmployment Solicitor Scotland

Dealing with a 'difficult' employee!

Employment law is designed to protect employees from unfair dismissal, maltreatment in the workplace and a host of other grievances. And so it should. But what about the rights of the employer when faced with a 'difficult' employee?

Employers often feel helpless when faced with this situation, particularly if the employee has not actually broken any of their contractual arrangements with their employer. The trouble lies in defining when behaviour crosses that invisible line into unacceptable or disruptive action that warrants a more stringent response from the employer and, possibly, further action. The first step is to make sure that any contract you have with your employee has been clearly worded to make it blatantly obvious to anyone what you as an employer deem as unacceptable behaviour.

Get it right from the start!

If proper employment procedures, policies and practices are in place, it is fairly straightforward to deal with an employee who is always late or who frequently takes days off. By laying out clear guidelines from the moment the employee begins to work for you, the employer is on a much stronger footing than if no contract has been signed or the employee has no notion of the boundaries you have set for others.

So your first port of call is the contract itself. If you are new to employment law, it pays to get an expert to look at your contract draft to ensure that the wording is clearly laid out and that anyone signing the contract is clear as to where they stand in the event of 'unacceptable behaviour'. Because employment laws are constantly changing and being updated, it is also worth revisiting old contracts to ensure that they conform with any new legislation that has been implemented.

Dealing with the situation.

If an employee is constantly taking days off, is late or is performing poorly, it is up to you as an employer to deal with the situation as quickly and as efficiently as possible to prevent it from impacting on other workers or on the running of the business. The first instance is to have an informal discussion with the employee, pointing out specific instances where their behaviour has not met the standards laid out in their contract. This is where your skills as an employer come in. Any situation can easily turn into a confrontation so make sure you have the evidence to back up what the employee will see initially as an accusation. Keep a log of instances of lateness, poor work or if there have been complaints from other workers. The earlier you address a situation, the better the chances are that it will be resolved successfully.

If there is no improvement after a certain date (agreed by both yourself and the employee), then further action needs to be taken. This can take the form of a formal verbal warning (if one was not issued at the initial meeting) or, if you feel the situation warrants it, a final written warning. If the situation still doesn't improve, then you may have to think about terminating the employee's contract.

Emotions can run high during situations such as this, so if you feel you are out of your depth and want to avoid the possibility of a claim for unfair dismissal brought by the employee, bringing in an independent mediator may be the solution. Your employment law specialist will be able to advise you on this aspect of negotiation and any other area of uncertainty. Yes, employment laws do exist to protect workers, but they are also there to protect employers as well. Don't be afraid to use them if a situation has become intolerable.

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