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The key to managing performance

Day-to-day management is time consuming enough, so if you have a workforce with no apparent issues, performance may not be on your radar. Or perhaps you do have an underperforming employee and can’t quite face what you think will be an awkward and uncomfortable conversation. Solicitor Amelia Goodwin and trainee solicitor Georgina O’Sullivan from the employment team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP say managing employee performance is often neglected.

Employees are an integral part of your business, but it is critical that you have an informed understanding of their ability to work to key pharmacy standards, such as the ability to work methodically, with attention to detail and with an understanding of the law and the regulations that apply to dispensing and the wider pharmacy industry. Performance management should be a regular feature of your business strategy. 

So, what does effective performance management look like? This will largely depend on the size of your workforce, but typically involves the continuous process of improving employee performance through formal appraisals and providing and encouraging regular feedback. Written records should always be kept.

PROMOTING SUCCESS

Having clearly defined job roles helps employees understand how their role impacts the business. Employees should know how to conduct themselves, when and how to take on responsibility and what ‘good performance’ looks like in the context of your business. Ultimately, it is important that you are confident your employees are empowered and competent to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of the public.

Importantly, effective performance management is a collaborative and two-way process. Employees should be encouraged to offer periodic feedback about their peers and the wider running of the pharmacy. They should feel comfortable to give feedback about leadership and culture. An effective and cohesive workforce will promote the success of your pharmacy. 

REDUCING RISK OF LIABILITY

By having effective and proportionate procedures in place, you reduce the risk of a successful claim for unfair dismissal being brought against you if you have to dismiss an underperforming employee. While capability can be a valid reason for dismissal, employees need to be given a reasonable opportunity to improve their performance and must be measured against fair and objective targets. 

Having frank conversations about an employee’s performance can be unpleasant, but you should resist the temptation to ignore proper procedure in favour of avoiding an awkward conversation or sparing someone’s feelings. It is difficult to reverse engineer a performance management process when you do decide to dismiss an employee. 

Regardless of how well-intentioned your motivations may be, if an employer fails to show that appropriate procedural steps were taken to give an employee opportunity to improve, it is likely an employment tribunal would rule that the employer acted unreasonably and unfairly. Whilst there is no specific process you must go through by law, employers must conduct themselves fairly. 

If an employer is conducting regular and informative reviews, they can identify a performance gap in an employee early on, and take steps to rectify the issue. When doing so, you should be clear about how the employee is underperforming and identify how they can improve. A plan for improvement may involve identifying next steps, agreeing actions and, critically, following up on areas for improvement. Importantly, written records should be kept of all meetings.

COMPLIANCE WITH REGULATIONS

In terms of regulatory requirements, you may be asked to provide evidence that your pharmacy continues to meet standards set by the General Pharmaceutical Council. 

Pharmacy owners have a responsibility to ensure that the safety and quality of pharmacy services are reviewed and monitored. Furthermore, any risks associated with providing services must be identified and managed. By conducting regular reviews and managing employee performance, this risk should be minimised. 

WHAT ABOUT LOCUMS?

Locums are classed as self-employed, which means they often do not have the benefit of the employment rights that apply to employees, such as protection from unfair dismissal. However, this should not be taken as an opportunity to circumvent having to manage the performance of a locum pharmacist. You should ensure that any locum agreement you enter into places an obligation on the locum to familiarise themselves and comply with the standard operating procedures you have in place.

In conclusion, addressing performance is key for all pharmacies. Remember to:

  • Have regular, open conversations with your employees
  • Address performance concerns as they arise to avoid greater issues in the long run
  • Ensure that a fair process is followed in any formal performance proceedings.  

The above is a general overview. We recommend that independent legal advice is sought for your specific concerns. 

amelia.goodwin@crsblaw.com and georgina.osullivan@crsblaw.com 




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