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Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.
Has she ever worked 7 hours a week?
No, I don't think so - she started 2 years ago in June. She started on two days a week, increased to 3 days after a couple of months, she had some personal issues, I had to reduce it to two again, and then back to three!
Why do you think reducing her hours would make things better - you mean by taking some of the pressure off?
Yes - she is going through a lot of personal stuff, separation, child custody issues etc etc.
I have noticed that her productivity is not great recently and I think that is because she is distracted
Whilst she may be contracted to 7 hours a week, it could be that the practice over the past couple of years has changed these terms so that it is now an implied contractual term that she does not work 7 hours a week any longer because she has never really done it. So forcing her to reduce to that could be going against her actual contractual terms, even if the original contract is different. So instead of trying to force this through I would say a better approach is to sit down with her and discuss it, offering her the opportunity to reduce her hours on a temporary basis to try and help her deal with the other issues she has going on,. Try and come across as a concerned employer rather than one who is trying to dictate things without considering things first. You may wish to mention (not in a threatening manner) that whilst you want the best for her, you also have a business to run so if her performance continues to be affected by this, you would eventually have to consider performance action although you would like to avoid this if possible and see the reduced hours as a solution that would benefit both sides
Ok thank you. What are my options if she refuses?
well you can try ad force these changes trough but at the risk of her challenging them - whether she does anything formal with all the other stuff going on is another question but the option is there. I would hope she kicks up a fuss but does not pursue the matter formally especially as to do so would require her to pay tribunal fees and spend time preparing cases etc
ok - thanks - final question I promise! The issues with her performance - I have a list of issues, the most serious of which (rowing with a client) came to my attention today. Do I have to follow verbal, verbal, written warning? Can I give all three warnings at once? Or does there have to be a time period between warnings?
no you cannot give all at once. Do you have a disciplinary policy in the workplace that says what warnings you must issue?
Yes it states 2 x verbal and 1 written except in the case of gross misconduct
well under law you do not have to give a verbal warning and can proceed straight to a written one but as your policy days you will give verbal ones first you should ideally follow that although in cases of more serious misconduct you could justify skipping them and going direct to written, then maybe final written and eventually dismissal
Thanks Ben, much appreciated