While the principle that an employer should not be forced to block the efficient management of business by being compelled to retain incompetent employees must be accepted, there should be verifiable evidence of the incompetence. Where the employee is a new recruit, this can be done during the probationary period. With employees of long standing, the incompetence may be due to unfamiliar new technology, new procedures or standards required by the market, or an impairment of the employee’s faculties due to age, illness or physical factors. In this case, good industrial relations practice requires an employer to at least provide the instructions, monitoring and practice to enable the employee to attain the level of competence required.
Where, in spite of these measures being applied, and the required level of competence despite warnings and efforts to correct the situation is not attained, tribunals sometimes ask whether demotion as an alternative has been considered. This will, of course depend on whether a suitable alternative position is available, the size of the company and the employee’s willingness to accept a lower status in the company, and in some cases, a lower salary consistent with the new position.
Where no alternatives are available or the employee is not willing to accept demotion, the dismissal may be considered to be reasonable. The status of the employee, whether on an executive management level or that of a lower level employee will not make a difference as much as will the employer’s confidence in the employee’s judgement, attitude and ability to perform the tasks required by the position.