Human Resources

Procedures for managing unsatisfactory performance and workplace behaviour - professional and general staff

Further information

  • UWA Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct
  • ELICOS Agreement

These procedures apply in the management of all professional and general University staff including staff in the areas of ELICOS and childcare.

  1. Overview
  2. Definitions
  3. Stage 1 Managing for performance and/or behaviour
  4. Stage 2 Managing unsatisfactory performance and/or behaviour
  5. Stage 3 Review and action by the Director, Human Resources


The University expects each staff member to show competence, care, good faith and compliance with instructions, policies and procedures in the performance of their duties and to conduct themselves in a manner which respects the rights and welfare of other members of the University in line with the University’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct.

Where a staff member’s work performance does not meet a satisfactory standard an appropriate process of investigation and corrective action must be taken. The action taken must conform to the relevant legislation and accord with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. The University is committed to ensuring that fair and effective systems exist for managing unsatisfactory work performance and allegations of unacceptable conduct or workplace behaviour.

The managing of unsatisfactory performance requires the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness to underpin all actions undertaken by supervisors. Staff from the Employee Relations and Management Services (ERMS) Section can advise on this.

The principles of natural justice are:

  • All parties will have the right to be heard and judged without bias.
  • All issues are investigated thoroughly and justly.

The principles of procedural fairness are:

  • The standards of conduct or job performance required will be made clear to the staff member by documentation or during interviews.
  • The staff member will be made aware of the likely next steps in the event that satisfactory performance or conduct is or is not maintained.
  • The staff member will be afforded the right to be accompanied and represented by an employee representative at discussions or interviews at any level of the discipline process.
  • When a complaint about performance or conduct is brought to the supervisor’s attention by a third party, the substance of the complaint will be verified before any action is taken on the matter.

These procedures do not replace the normal responsibility of a supervisor to discuss work or conduct issues with staff members, to ensure that staff members have a clear understanding of the work and conduct expected of them and to provide appropriate feedback on their performance. The emphasis should always be on early intervention and informal resolution of a problem, as opposed to a more formal intervention at a later time.

In any event, unless the matter is of a serious nature, the formal disciplinary process outlined below should only be commenced when it becomes clear to the supervisor that a work performance or conduct problem has not been corrected through relatively informal discussion between the supervisor and staff member. Nothing in these procedures precludes the University from terminating the employment of a staff member for unsatisfactory performance.

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Employee Representative
means a person nominated by a staff member to provide support and/or make representations to the University on their behalf, where they so choose and who is not currently a practising solicitor or barrister.
Disciplinary Action
is the action or actions taken as a result of moving through this process and is the outcome of the staff member’s failure to achieve the required standards of performance or workplace behaviour and for which a penalty is deemed appropriate.
means the person who is responsible for day-to-day supervision of the staff member.
Staff Member/Employee
means a member of staff employed by the University, including general, ELICOS and childcare staff and excludes academic staff.
Unsatisfactory work performance or behaviour
includes inefficiency or negligence in the performance of the employee’s duties or unacceptable workplace behaviour.

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Stage 1 Managing for performance and/or behaviour

This stage should be followed where informal chats about performance or behaviour have not been successful and where there are still concerns regarding a staff member’s performance or behaviour. Whilst it is expected that the matter will be managed at the local level, the supervisor may discuss this part of the process with an Employee Relations and Management Services (ERMS) officer at any time.

Step 1

  1. As soon as problems or concerns regarding a staff member’s performance and/or behaviour appear raise them with the staff member.
  2. When approaching the staff member about the need to meet, the supervisor should:
    • attempt to put the staff member at ease
    • approach the staff member respectfully and discreetly making sure that he or she does not lose face in front of work colleagues
    • let the staff member know in advance the purpose of the meeting
    • invite them to bring an employee representative for support; a manager/supervisor can also invite a representative from ERMS to be present, if required.
  3. Give clear evidence or examples to demonstrate that the staff member’s performance and/or behaviour is unsatisfactory.
  4. Ensure the staff member knows what to do and that he or she has the skills, resources and tools to do the job.
  5. Ensure that the staff member understands your expectations with respect to performance and behaviour and try to seek agreement from the staff member around those expectations. Ensure that these expectations are reasonable. Where the staff member feels that the expectations are unreasonable, provide the opportunity for discussion.
  6. Explore the possibility of there being a personal problem, health problems or some other factor which is impinging on the staff member’s work. Consider suggesting the Employee Assistance Program or other resources if appropriate.
  7. Provide workable solutions and identify training and support requirements where appropriate.
  8. It is important to document the discussions you have with the staff member detailing areas of concern, mitigating factors, a defined and agreed period of time for improvement. A copy signed by the staff member should be kept by the supervisor and a copy given to the staff member.

Step 2

  1. Monitor the staff member’s performance and/or behaviour.
  2. Meet with the staff member as regularly as appears necessary or as agreed.

Step 3

  1. If after a reasonable amount of time it appears that the staff member has reached the agreed expectations, then the process will come to an end. If after a reasonable amount of time it appears that satisfactory progress is not being made, discuss the case with your contact in Employee Relations and Management Services (ERMS). ‘Reasonable amount of time’ will vary depending on the nature of the job and the commitment of the staff member to improving their performance/behaviour.
  2. The supervisor in conjunction with the ERMS officer will determine if it’s appropriate to move to Stage 2 or continue with Stage 1.

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Stage 2 Managing unsatisfactory performance and/or behaviour

Step 1 - The first meeting

  1. Advise the staff member that the process is moving into stage 2 and arrange for a meeting. Depending on the number of issues that need to be covered, this first meeting may in fact be a number of meetings.
  2. At the meeting:
    • The staff member must be told in clear and precise terms exactly what you are dissatisfied with; for example, "continued late attendance such as that which has occurred on…" or "too many inaccuracies in production of reports". It is not sufficient to make broad statements such as "We are not happy with your performance," or "Your attitude will need to improve."
    • Ask the staff member to respond to each example and record and consider the responses. Where responses require further investigation. conduct those investigations and follow up on those matters at a subsequent meeting.
    • Seek to ascertain any underlying cause of the problems. There may be personal, health or other workplace issues impinging on the employee’s capacity to perform to the required standards. In these circumstances seek to address and agree on solutions to these issues but at the same time reiterate your expectations. The University operates a confidential Employee Assistance Program and it may be beneficial to suggest that the member of staff access this service to assist in addressing any underlying problems.
    • Consider whether the staff member’s responses excuse the performance or behaviour levels; if they do, consider other courses of action.
    • If you consider the responses unsatisfactory, inform the staff member of the following
      • that in your view the responses do not justify the poor performance and/or behaviour
      • in clear terms the performance and/or behavioural expectations that are required
      • that the purpose of this process is to assist the staff member to meet the performance and/or behavioural expectations which have been discussed
      • that failure to improve and achieve the required standards of performance and/or behaviour will lead to disciplinary action
      • that their performance and/or behaviour will be reviewed within a specified time, or earlier. New matters should not be raised during this review period unless considered of a serious nature. Seek advice from Employee Relations and Management Services on the appropriate period for review in each particular case
      • discuss with the staff member any measures that are necessary to improve the performance and/or behaviour, such as, further training.
  3. Conclude the meeting ensuring that:
    • the staff member clearly understands the issues that have been discussed and what is required of them
    • an improvement plan has been mutually agreed (if possible) that meets your needs and the staff member
    • you have offered your assistance but do not allow the staff member to shift responsibility back to you
    • you have invited the staff member to notify you if he or she encounters any obstacles or barriers to meeting the required standards.

Step 2 - Follow up from the first meeting

  1. Following the meeting, and preferably within five working days, provide the staff member with a letter or record of meeting confirming the matters discussed and a copy of the proposed improvement plan.
  2. The Improvement Plan (Attachment A) should include:
    • the areas of concern
    • the performance and/or behavioural standards to be met and how these will be assessed
    • agreed training and development requirements
    • the time frame for the process.
  1. It is recommended that, in addition, a working review plan (Attachment B is a template) is used to document the feedback which will be provided to the staff member at the regular review meetings. This may include the tasks set for the review period (that is one week or a fortnight), the anticipated time required to complete the task, and feedback on the tasks.
  1. Have the staff member sign a copy of the documentation to indicate receipt and that it is a true and accurate record of what was discussed. If the staff member disagrees with the content of the document or wishes to make additional comments, they may provide a written statement in response which will be reviewed by the ERMS officer. Any such additional documentation submitted by the staff member must stay with the original record of meeting.

Step 3 - Regular review meetings

  1. Monitor performance and/or behaviour on a regular basis as per the agreed timeframe in the improvement plan. Where necessary review the documentation ensuring that the staff member understands the plan and the possible consequences of not meeting the supervisor’s expectations as outlined in Stage 2, Step 1 B.
  2. Where the staff member has met the supervisor’s expectations, confirm this in a letter stating that the process has been completed and forward a copy to the ERMS officer who will place it on the appropriate central file.
  3. If there is not satisfactory improvement within the agreed timeframe, provide the staff member with a written warning outlining the areas of concern and the lack of improvement. A copy of this letter should be forwarded to the ERMS officer who will place it on the appropriate central file.

Step 4 - Final warning

  1. When the staff member has been given a reasonable number of opportunities to improve their performance and/or behaviour, and they have not done so, have a final counselling session and issue a final warning. Seek assistance from your ERMS officer in drafting this letter. A copy of this letter should be forwarded to the ERMS officer who will place it on the appropriate central file.
  2. Make sure a period of time is again specified for the staff member to improve and that the consequences of failing to perform satisfactorily are understood.
  3. If sufficient improvement has occurred, continue with the review period.
  4. If after issuing a final warning sufficient improvement has not occurred during the specified period, conduct another meeting with the staff member.
  5. If the staff member’s response at the meeting is unsatisfactory as to why their performance has not achieved the required standard, inform them that you are contemplating recommending termination of their employment or disciplinary action. Invite them to offer any mitigating circumstances as to why their employment should not be terminated.
  6. Make sure you record considerations given to matters raised by the staff member and that you allow yourself sufficient time to consider other relevant matters even if not raised by the employee, such as the length of service and past record of the employee.

Step 5 - Report to the Director, Human Resources

  1. If the decision is to recommend disciplinary action or termination of the staff member, forward a report to the Director, Human Resources through your ERMS officer, for consideration of the appropriate action. The report should include:
    • the specifics of the alleged poor performance and/or behaviour
    • the process that has been followed
    • a recommendation for the disciplinary action sort as outlined in the General Staff Agreement 2014, that is, reprimand or censure, withholding an increment or termination
    • copies of records of meetings and other relevant documentation.
  2. The ERMS officer will acknowledge receipt of the report and provide the staff member with a copy and inform them that they are entitled within five working days of receiving the copy of the report, unless agreed otherwise by the Director of Human Resources, to submit a written response to the Director Human Resources.
  3. The Director of Human Resources will consider the report and any response in accordance with Stage 3.

If you are unsure about any aspect of the above procedure, it is vital that you seek further advice from Employee Relations and Management Services.

The letter of confirmation and the staff member’s statement, if any, are to be forwarded to your ERMS officer who will place them on the appropriate central file on unsatisfactory performance.

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Stage 3 Review and action by the Director, Human Resources

  1. Upon receipt of the supervisor’s report provided in accordance with Stage 2 the Director, Human Resources shall first be satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken to remedy the poor performance or behaviour.
  2. The Director Human Resources may, after full consideration of the matter, decide to:
    • take no further action
    • refer the matter back for further information, evidence or opportunity to improve
    • reprimand or censure the staff member
    • withhold an increment of salary, where applicable, for a period not exceeding twelve months, or
    • subject to Point C below, terminate the employment.
  3. Before deciding to terminate the employment, the Director Human Resources may advise the staff member that termination is being considered and invite the staff member to make an appointment with the Director to discuss any matters prior to a final decision being made. The staff member may choose to have an employee representative in attendance at this meeting.
  4. If the Director Human Resources determines that disciplinary action is warranted, the staff member will be advised of the decision in writing and a copy placed on the staff member’s file as well as the central file on unsatisfactory performance.

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