As a Business Firm, we frequently represent employers in Wrongful Dismissal law suits and we also help them implement policies to avoid those law suits. One of the issues that often comes up is failing to put discipline issues in writing.
For some reason, many employers think that talking to employees about behaviour issues is more likely to create a change in those behaviours. My sense is they feel it is a “friendlier” approach. Of course, when those behaviours are not corrected and the employer fires an employee for what they believe is “cause” that usually is not the case. In employment litigation, if it is not in writing, it generally doesn’t count.
Writing can be as simple as an email to an employee letting them know that you’ve noticed they’ve been late a lot, ask what you can do to help them get to work on time and then tell them if it doesn’t improve, you’ll have to consider further discipline. This is more likely to get the attention of the employee to improve the behaviour than a friendly, “oh, slept through your alarm again” comment made verbally.
Ultimately, putting coaching in writing can both help your employees take their work performance seriously and has the added impact of providing the employer with evidence required to terminate for cause, if necessary.
Inga B. Andriessen JD