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've been working for a well-known law firm for over four years. My role is within business services so I'm not a legal professional.

Things were running fairly smoothly until some management changes about two years ago. The department head was demoted and now works in a different department in a less senior role.

It was clear from the very start that the new manager would take a much tougher approach. A couple of people were sacked, either by failing their probation or just called in to a meeting if they had passed their probation but had less than two years of service.

My problems started with my new line manager (who at the time reported to the new department manager) when I asked a question in a team meeting. I was told that my question wasn't 'constructive' and therefore not appreciated. I was also told that I was generally too vocal etc. It was then decided that my behaviour would be monitored in an informal basis.

In February 2019 I was put on a PIP (performance improvement plan). This happened when another manager had reported that I had said that one of my colleagues tend to be 'picky' when checking work. This happened out of the blue. I received a shot message, asking me to come to a meeting room to discuss a flexible working request. No mention of a PIP or anything.

My first question is that should I not have been invited to the PIP meeting in a formal way, giving an opportunity to be accompanied etc? The firm claims that this was not part of a disciplinary process. However, if you are put on a PIP you will automatically lose any pay rise and/or bonus others are awarded. I mentioned this to a former union rep who was in the opinion of that 'employment laws may have been broken due to the fact that there was a sanction involved'.

PIP objectives included some behavioural ones as well as issues with my work (which I hadn't had before). It was also decided that all my work would be quality-checked. PIP was for a period of three months.

A week before my PIP was due to end I was told that everything was on the track. However, my line manager then decided to extend it by four weeks due to 'quality issues'. This was when I mentioned to her that I wasn't happy and said that we could commence protected conversation (yes, probably a big mistake). I requested a meeting with HR.

I was then signed off by a Dr.. I was off for a stress related condition but also a physical health issue was detected following some routine blood tests. I returned to work a well over a month later. HR made it crystal clear that they would not enter into protected conversation. I then decided to agree to the PIP extension.

Again, a week before my PIP was due to end everything was on the track. My line manager even told how pleased she was about my effort and would notify HR accordingly. She did mention that she would double-check some of my work but couldn't see there being a problem.

A week later I was told that I had failed my PIP due to 'quality issues'. I was told that I would be invited to a formal disciplinary meeting and a written warning was the likely outcome. I said that I would not hesitate to take this to the Employment Tribunal should it all progress to dismissal. My line manager looked quite uncomfortable and said that it was my prerogative and that she wouldn't expect anything less from me!

Again, I got signed off and ended up being away for about six weeks. On my return my line manager and HR were going to go ahead with the disciplinary. I then contacted ACAS who said that they couldn't really advise what to do but, nevertheless, I had two options: to contact an employment lawyer to discuss whether there would be any grounds of resigning and claiming constructive dismissal or raising a formal grievance. ACAS did say that it would be far easier to argue an unfair dismissal case than taking a constructive dismissal route.

I was invited to a 'mediation' meeting with HR and my line manager. I felt that this wasn't impartial at all as HR made it clear that they felt I was underperforming. I felt that HR should have listened to both sides of the story before making such comments. In the end, we were not getting anywhere and HR terminated the meeting.

I then raised a formal grievance on my line manager. I had quite a lot of going on as i had a large benign tumour and an organ removed in December.

My grievance was looked at when I was signed off, recovering from my operation. i had made several points. Unsurprisingly, apart from a couple of points which were partially upheld, my grievance generally was mostly not upheld. However, it was then decided not to proceed with the disciplinary but to extend the PIP for six weeks and offer me some training.

I wasn't entirely happy with my new PIP content. Previous PIP had stated that 'a majority of jobs' had to be right first time. To get a perspective, if you have a 60 slide presentation and you are using double quotes when they should be using single quotes just once, this would be marked as an error. However, my new PIP put a figure at 80%. I mentioned this but the line manager said that it was what was expected from everyone and non-negotiable. I also requested further training once my formal (which I felt was quite basic) training had been completed. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, this never happened.

Again, shortly before my PIP was due to finish I was told it was all looking good.

In the end, my PIP was failed once again due to achieving just over 70% right first time score instead of the 'agreed' 80% and a behavioural incident.

I was now invited to a formal disciplinary meeting. My chosen companion was not acceptable to the firm as they were neither a colleague nor a union representative, so I had to attend alone. I felt that it wan't going to make any difference of what I was saying but, nevertheless, did my best. Unfortunately, I was right and a written warning was issues.

I have now appealed the decision and I'm due to have an appeal meeting. I have declined it because it will be heard by my line manager's manager, which I feel will not be entirely impartial. Also, I declined the invitation because my chosen companion won't be acceptable. I do not wish to involve any of my colleagues. Furthermore, I don't think that any of my colleagues would agree to accompany me. They would simply be too worried about getting involved. I have enquired about a possibility of hiring a union rep. However, that would costs hundreds of pounds which I simply can't afford.

I had an occupational health assessment. The Dr wrote that I have a long-term health condition that is likely to affect my performance and disability discrimination laws should be considered when making decisions. The Dr also mentioned that I should be allowed to have an 'appropriate' companion in formal meetings.

The firm insists that either a colleague or a union rep is appropriate and they are not willing to accommodate anyone else. My argument here is that in my situation neither of those are appropriate. They are basically sticking with it as that's all that the law requires.

Furthermore, I made a DSAR request. I found some interesting skype conversation where (I assume) my line manager was talking about me either with HR or another manager. HR/other manager says 'simply tell him to bog off'!

My final question is what should I do next? I feel that should this end up in dismissal (which I think it will), I will have no other option than claiming unfair dismissal. Of course, my question then would be how strong would my case be?

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Hi,

 

from the employee perspective, just because seeing both sides can be useful..

 

- you go off with stress when they want to discuss your performance - question of if that makes you unable to do the job?

- you have a first time error rate of 30% - that's really high, and  it looks reasonable to want it to improve

- you want to bring someone into the meeting that no employer would allow; is there a reason for that? Are you for example disabled and want a support person?

- you've been offered a  appeal hearing and turned it down because you think the bosses are corrupt

- your distrust is such that you've launched a DSAR

 

I mean... this is clearly not the employer for you. It feels like they would be putting you out of your misery by freeing you up to work elsewhere?

 

They are following a reasonable process, and by any reasonable measure you are under-performing. There's no case here.

 

Ask for a protected conversation now, and see if you can get out with some cash.

 

 

 

 

Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Emmzzi said:

Hi,

 

from the employee perspective, just because seeing both sides can be useful..

 

- you go off with stress when they want to discuss your performance - question of if that makes you unable to do the job?

- you have a first time error rate of 30% - that's really high, and  it looks reasonable to want it to improve

- you want to bring someone into the meeting that no employer would allow; is there a reason for that? Are you for example disabled and want a support person?

- you've been offered a  appeal hearing and turned it down because you think the bosses are corrupt

- your distrust is such that you've launched a DSAR

 

I mean... this is clearly not the employer for you. It feels like they would be putting you out of your misery by freeing you up to work elsewhere?

 

They are following a reasonable process, and by any reasonable measure you are under-performing. There's no case here.

 

Ask for a protected conversation now, and see if you can get out with some cash.

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your reply.

 

May I just please clarify what the error rate means in this case. 30% not rlight first time doesn't mean that there would be 30% errors within a single document. 

 

It means that 30% of the documents worked wouldn't be spotless. There could be just one instance of straight quotes instead of curly quotes.  Most documents we worked on are quite lengthy. 

 

I've been mostly marked down for very minor errors such as the example I gave.

 

Not everyone's work is being checkle. Majority of documents that are not checked contain similar errors. In most cases these aren't picked up by fee earners.

 

People make small mistakes because we are all humans but, more importantly, we are constanty having to deal with unrealistic deadlines.

 

We have also been losing staff recently. Many have gone to the rival firms.

 

And you are absolutely right. They aren't the employer for me. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to move on right now though a couple of coleagues have managed to do just that.

Edited by Pierre70
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Are other people able to meet the standard?

 

notwithstanding that; this job is making you miserable and more interested in winning than being happy.

 

that’s never worth it.

 

be happy. Move on. Go somewhere you’ll be appreciated. This is not worth it.

Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, Emmzzi said:

Are other people able to meet the standard?

 

notwithstanding that; this job is making you miserable and more interested in winning than being happy.

 

that’s never worth it.

 

be happy. Move on. Go somewhere you’ll be appreciated. This is not worth it.

About the 'required' standards, most people are not able to meet them.

 

I honestly believe that my PIP objectives have been set so that I would fail. The real reason for all this that I've been too outspoken. I'm simply not the right cultural fit.

 

But you're right, it's not the right job for me.

Edited by Pierre70
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