Applicant dismissed for failing to reach targets without being given reasonable opportunity to improve – dismissal unfair.

A sales consultant was dismissed for consistently failing to reach his sales target. He claimed that the target was unreasonable, that he had not been given sufficient time to close sales and that the downturn in the economy had made selling the respondent’s products more difficult. The respondent maintained that the applicant had agreed to the sales target he had been set, and that he had been counselled repeatedly. The commissioner noted that poor work performance is regarded as a consequence of incapacity, and that poorly performing employees must be given a reasonable opportunity to improve. In cases of dismissal for poor work performance, the employer must also prove that the employee failed to meet a performance standard, that he was aware of the required standard and that dismissal was an appropriate sanction for not meeting the required performance standard. It was common cause that the applicant was aware of the standards he had been set, and that he had failed to meet them.
The respondent had failed to properly investigate and remedy the reasons for the applicant’s poor performance. There had been no meaningful effort to render assistance to him through proper instruction, training, guidance or counselling. There could be no question of giving an employee a reasonable time to improve without taking these steps. Dismissal was, accordingly, an inappropriate sanction in the circumstances

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