Review case—a dispute about underperformance

Disclaimer

The following case summary illustrates how the Merit Protection Commissioner has reviewed a particular case and should not be relied on as legal advice

An employee sought review by the Merit Protection Commissioner of an agency decision to place them on a performance improvement plan and defer performance progression for the next performance cycle. The employee was in a role that processed payments to clients.

The employee considered that because the agency had failed to follow its performance management processes, as detailed in its procedural guidance, a valid performance agreement was not in place. The employee also disputed the factual evidence managers relied on to establish unsatisfactory performance.

The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that the employee's argument about whether a valid performance agreement was in place lacked substance and was a narrow reading of the agency's policy and procedural guidance material.

The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that the performance measures for this employee were appropriate—focusing on output, quality and behaviours that support the effective performance of the function.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the employee was not subject to quantifiable targets with respect to error rates and assumed that there was no expectation that the employee would have a zero error rate. However, the Merit Protection Commissioner was satisfied by the documentary evidence the manager provided of the employee's errors, the impact of these errors on clients and the evidence of failure to follow correct procedures designed to provide accountability for the expenditure of public monies. The Merit Protection Commissioner concluded that although the number of errors was relatively small they were serious and affected the effective administration of the business area.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the employee had no output targets but accepted that the manager's concerns about the employee's output were genuine and fair and had no reason to doubt the manager's judgement on this point.

The Merit Protection Commissioner concluded that the evidence suggested that there was a sufficient basis to place the employee on a performance improvement plan.