DWP Performance Improvement Plans must be fair, reasonable and supportive

15 February 2011


DWP People Performance Procedures include detailed guidance on how concerns about poor performance should be addressed by managers including the use of Performance Improvement Plans.

Under People Performance Procedures, Paragraph 6, managers are told that where they have “concerns about an employee’s performance, it is important that action is taken quickly. Performance is likely to worsen if not addressed and it is not fair to the employee, their colleagues or our customers to let the issue become a major problem before action is taken.”

Unusual Poor Performance

The first consideration for the manager will be to decide whether the poor performance issue is unusual for that employee and this is a fall in their usual/Departmental standards. If this is the case it is likely to mean that something has happened which has temporarily affected the employee’s ability to perform to their usual standards. Where the issue is a consequence of circumstances outside of the control of the employee, the manager should consider a temporary, appropriate adjustment of the usual standards.

The manager will need to discuss this as part of the performance discussion with the employee to identify what the issue is and what support they can give to help the employee bring their performance back to its usual level. The support will depend on employee circumstances but may include:

  • Advising the employee to contact the Employee Assistance Programme 
  • A referral to the Occupational Health Service
  • A temporary change in duties/location.

More Frequent Discussions

Managers should schedule more frequent performance discussions to monitor performance and check on progress.

If, after taking this action, performance fails to return to its usual level, the manager will need to consider further action as described under People Performance Procedures, paragraphs 6.4 to 6.6, for “Continued performance issues – informal poor performance.”

Members may take advice from their PCS Rep at this stage but informal discussions do not attract the right to be accompanied.

Informal Poor Performance Procedures

Where performance remains unacceptable or does not recover after a performance lapse, the manager should schedule an additional performance discussion with the employee. The manager should make it clear that this meeting is specifically being held because of poor performance. They must state the reasons/provide evidence which supports the application of informal action.
At this meeting the manager will need to:

  • Discuss the current performance and outline why it is unacceptable
  • Identify and confirm the issues that are affecting the employee’s performance (including circumstances beyond their control)
  • Identify any temporary appropriate adjustments which may need to be taken into account
  • Identify if the poor performance is linked to the employee’s health. If so, ask the employee to consult their GP and also consider a referral to Occupational Health (with the employee’s consent)
  • Offer and provide any support, coaching and feedback to ensure the employee is clear what is expected of them
  • Discuss what steps are needed to achieve the necessary standards, and ensure the standards set are reasonable for the employee
  • Discuss any development and ensure the Development Plan is updated
  • Update objectives as necessary
  • Remind the employee of the Employee Assistance Programme
  • Consider a change of duties, where feasible and appropriate
  • Discuss and agree a Performance Improvement Plan and agree a plan of actions which allow reasonable time for consolidation of support provided.

The manager will also need to explain that if the employee’s performance continues to be poor, then formal Unsatisfactory Performance action may have to be taken.

However, the aim is to support employees and help them to improve their performance without having to take formal action.

The agreed actions and timescales will need documenting on the Performance Improvement Plan Both the manager and the employee should have a copy of this and should jointly monitor the employee’s performance against the agreed actions. The manager and employee will agree a short timetable of performance discussions which should cover the duration of the actions recorded on the Performance Improvement Plan.

If improvements are not made, the manager will need to decide, following discussion with the countersigning manager, whether formal Unsatisfactory Performance action is necessary.

PCS Support and Advice

Members may seek advice and support from their PCS Representative when a manager raises concerns about poor performance. Members must be allowed:


  • a fair and reasonable opportunity for improvement under the normal People Performance process;
  • a further fair and reasonable opportunity for improvement under the informal poor performance procedures;
  • all normal, reasonable, supportive steps to improve performance, using the People Performance procedures, before formal unsatisfactory performance action is taken under the Unsatisfactory Performance Policy.

Member’s concerns under People Performance should be raised informally through discussion with the line manager. Unresolved concerns should be raised formally, in writing, using the Grievance Procedures within 15 working days of the event or decision in question. 


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