Employees seeking advice about the validity of performance management is on the rise, including queries from lawyers, workplace relations specialists have told Lawyers Weekly.
Giri Sivaraman, an associate at Maurice Blackburn, told Lawyers Weekly that a number of clients have approached him for advice after an employer implemented a "purported" performance management plan.
"In my mind, [the plan] appears to be clearly designed to frustrate [the employee] and intimidate them and remove them from the workplace and in some cases my suspicion is that it's to avoid otherwise providing them with a redundancy benefit. That's not always the case ... but certainly I've seen that," he said.
"I've definitely had lawyers who've approached me seeking advice because their employers have raised performance concerns which the lawyers claim were not legitimate."
In one case, a lawyer sought advice from Sivaraman on how she could challenge an employer's concerns and avert the threat of termination after she received a lengthy letter while on holidays about her alleged performance concerns.
Joydeep Hor, managing partner at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, agreed there had been an increased case of people claiming they are being performance managed for the first time in their careers.
"There are perceptions that this performance management process has been enacted with a view to circumventing payouts that would otherwise be required in redundancy or retrenchment situations," he said.
Hor said while businesses are entitled to address poor performance, this requires giving employees proper information and opportunities to improve, which requires time. He said that while lawyers are generally more aware of their rights, there still appears to be reluctance to challenge a termination.
"There is still a real stigma - or perceived stigma - associated with challenging a termination and a lot of lawyers are concerned about will what will happen to their reputation if they're seen as a troublesome ex-employee and whether that's going to impact on their ability to get work and a whole range of other things," he said.
- Sarah Sharples