Elizabeth Mills explains the ways to deal with indivdual failures in training and competence

What if one of your employees cannot demonstrate that he meets the training and competence (T&C) requirements? For example, he cannot pass the required knowledge 'tests' or cannot prove competent in a role play or observation scenario?You need to take some action here. Until he can prove competence within these areas, he cannot continue to provide advice. First, reduce activities and ensure that he is dealing only with matters he can prove he is competent at. Alternatively, provide full supervision from a more senior person (who has demonstrated competence) for these activities. This would involve the supervisor monitoring performance until the employee either becomes competent or stops doing the job.Second, work with the individual to review the areas he is struggling with. Why is he unable to demonstrate competence? Although 'tests' are a good way of measuring competency they are not the only way.Some individuals just do not suit exam-type scenarios and may be perfectly competent to conduct their work. They just cannot prove it in a test. Think about other ways to assess them. Also consider what training you can offer to help them bridge their knowledge or skill gap. Record it in their training plan and arrange the training to be carried out.

Changing roleIf you find that, despite all of this, full competence has not been reached, you could look at changing their role. What are they good at and can they do more of it? What other areas of the business need additional attention and can they be more focused in this direction? In other words, can you change their role to accommodate the activities in which they can demonstrate competence? This type of action will help you retain good staff within the company while ensuring your firm remains compliant. It also reduces the chances of a later claim from an employee you have let go.If this does not resolve the problem you need to invoke your company's disciplinary policy. If you do not currently have one, now is the time to get one. This is an important document to have, as it will state exactly how your firm will deal with all issues where disciplinary action is required. From 1 October, it will become mandatory to follow a four-step disciplinary procedure prior to the dismissal of an employee. Failure to do this will automatically result in unfair dismissal, so it's important to spend time on this now. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) is a good contact point for advice. As long as the minimum requirements are included, you can have any policy suitable for your business. However, a word of warning: if your disciplinary policy covers more than the minimum requirements, you must follow all your procedures. If you do not, the dismissal may well be judged unfair. Your policy should be straightforward and communicate very clearly what the company will do, step-by-step, when it deals with disciplinary matters. These procedures should be stated as being 'non-contractual'.

Disciplinary actionDisciplinary action of this kind is performance related and so would generally be classed as 'ordinary misconduct'. At this stage you would hold a disciplinary hearing with the employee to explain the situation from the company's viewpoint: the individual has not been able to prove themselves as being competent for the role and so cannot continue in the same capacity. Ask the employee for their comments as to how this can be resolved. Consider all their suggestions and document your discussions. After the meeting, you can then consider what has been discussed and make a decision as to what action to take. If you feel a warning is required then do this and confirm it in writing to the employee. Be clear to explain the reasons for the warning and state what level of performance is required by a specific date. This part is critical as the employee must be very clear as to the level of performance/competence required. Offer again to provide training in line with what they ask for. Make it clear that if they meet these expectations, disciplinary action will not continue. If they do not, then further disciplinary action will be taken. If there is still no improvement, you can proceed to a final warning which will follow the same procedure as the first. If by the end of the timescale agreed in the final warning no improvement has been made, you may be able to dismiss the employee on the grounds of underperformance. Don't forget to provide notice to them in line with their contract of employment, or pay them in lieu if your contract makes provisions for this.

  • Elizabeth Mills is head of compliance and training at The Broker Network