Conduct v Capability

Employers often have difficulty determining whether an employee’s poor performance should be managed as a conduct or capability issue.

Put simply, capability is “can’t” and conduct is “won’t”. For this reason, it is generally advisable to have a separate disciplinary procedure and a capability procedure although a number of organisations just use the one. If you are unsure at any stage, please contact DLP.

Both capability and conduct are fair reasons for dismissal but it is important for Employers to be clear on the reason if they need to dismiss an employee.

The following comparisons may help to explain the difference further…

Capability Conduct
Either: Or:
The employee is making an effort,
but is not achieving the required improvement
The employee does not make enough effort
Employees have received relevant
training, but they do not appear to have acquired the necessary skills
Employees are not applying skills they have
The employee ADMITS that they are not achieving the required standards The employee does not agree on the problem identified
The employee cannot obtain relevant qualifications The employee is not interested in obtaining relevant qualifications
Employee does not seem to be able to get there Employee not willing to get there
Low output of work No interest in improving

Considerations for employers

Having clear expectations of employee performance and managing these on a daily basis are critical success factors for every business.  A high performing business knows which employees are delivering and which are failing but addressing issues of underperformance is no easy task and they should be managed professionally.

When an employer is dealing with a situation due to an employee falling short of the standards expected of them within a workplace, it is important to remember that disciplinary and capability procedures are there to encourage an improvement in an employee’s work performance or conduct.