The College is committed to developing and supporting staff to work effectively to meet the objectives of their roles. The College has policies, procedures and processes in place with the aim of supporting the goals of its employees.  Line managers are best placed to offer one-to-one support and guidance to their staff in meeting these objectives and developing new skills.  The College’s Capability Policy is designed to support staff and managers in dealing with matters relating to performance which may arise from time to time.

This guidance is designed to aid you navigate the Capability Policy & Procedure to ensure you have an understanding of when/why and how it is used.  Wherever possible the informal process should be initiated rather than the formal. The Capability Procedure shall apply to all staff except those staff in their probation period and those covered by the Appendix to the College Charter and Statutes 2015 governing academic staff.

What the College expects from you

The College expects you to manage staff in line Imperial Expectations and Respect for Others guide (pdf)‌ and meet with your staff on a regular basis to discuss work and give advice/ guidance on work matters.

The College treats equality of opportunity seriously and has an equality framework to ensure equality of opportunity.  Implementation of the Capability Policy & Procedure must be clear and transparent and not subject to any unfair discriminatory practices. 

Staff Guidance

What is Capability?

Capability issues are problems arising where a member of staff is not sustaining the acceptable level of performance needed to meet the requirements of the role in terms of the quantity and quality of work despite genuine effort.  

I want to ensure that I am performing effectively in the role. How will I know what is expected of me?

On taking up your role, your line manager will outline what is expected of you. The duties listed in your job description will form part of the discussion.  Such expectations may also be discussed as part of regular team or one-to-one meetings and reviewed as part of your annual Performance Review and Development Plan (PRDP) meeting with you and your manager. If you have any questions about standards expected or if you are not clear what is required of you in your role, you should speak to your line manager.

What happens if there is a concern about my performance?

Initial discussion

If there is a concern about your performance, your manager will have an initial discussion with you to explore the barriers that may be preventing you from carrying out the role effectively and to identify training and support that may remove these barriers. 

Following the initial discussion with your manager, where this continues, your manager will meet with you again to discuss any further areas of concern and agree with you steps to address these, including a more structured support. 

Structured Support

Where there is no improvement following previous discussions, your manager will arrange a more structured support by setting specific objectives for you to meet the required standards.  These may include for example:

  •  setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) objectives in relation to your performance;
  • exploring additional support or training that will help you to meet standards required.

Your manager will also agree a reasonable period of review with you.  During the review period, your manager will meet with you regularly to review your performance and provide feedback. These meetings will also provide an opportunity for you and your manager to discuss the support and/or training in place and amend or add to this where necessary.

 The duration of the review period will depend on the nature of the performance concerns and the particular objectives set for you. If you have a disability, your line manager will give full consideration to your duties and may discuss and consider making reasonable adjustments to your duties.

What happens if my performance has not improved following structured support?

Formal Action

If following a period of structured support your performance has not reached the required standard, you may be invited to attend a First Formal Performance Review Meeting

  1. Human Resources will be present at the meeting
  2. You will receive five days’ notice of the formal meeting.
  3. You will have the option to be accompanied by Trade Union representative or work colleague.
  4. During the meeting, your line manager will outline how your performance has fallen below what is required and will talk through evidence or examples with you.
  5. During the meeting, you will also have the opportunity to provide details on matters that may be affecting your performance.
  6. You and your manager will discuss and explore additional training or any other support to help you achieve and maintain required standard.

You have the option if you prefer, to request for the meeting to be heard by another line manager, subject to the discretion of Human Resources.  Where this is agreed, your manager will present to the alternative manager.

After the meeting all the information provided will be considered.  The decision may be that, no further action is required, or a first written improvement notice  (warning) and an improvement action plan will be issued to you within 10 days of the meeting.

Where a warning is issued, you will have the right to appeal against the outcome.  Details of the process of appeal will be provided in the letter.

At the end of the first formal notice, where the required standard have been achieved, no further action will be taken.

What is an improvement plan?

An improvement plan will:

  •  Outline specific, measurable and realistic work objectives with regular review periods.
  • List any developmental and support activities designed to support the member of staff to achieve the work standards.
  • Be applicable for a reasonable period, which will be  decided in consultation with the member of staff.

Where performance has not improved to the standard required

Where performance has not improved to the standard required  a Second Formal Performance Review Meeting will be held and this will be confirmed in writing. 

The process of the second formal performance review meeting will be the same as the first formal performance review meeting.  A final written improvement notice (warning) and an improvement action plan may be issued within 10 working days of the meeting.

What happens at the end of the final improvement notice?

Where performance has improved to the standard required, there will be no further action.

Where your performance has not improved, a Formal Capability Review Hearing may be held.   A senior manager will hear the case. 

You will be given notice of the meeting and will be informed of your right to be accompanied by Trade Union representative or work colleague. 

During this meeting, your line manager will describe to the panel the work standard expected for the role and explain how your performance has fallen below the standards required.  Your line manager will also provide information about measures that have been taken to support you to improve your performance. During the meeting, you will have the opportunity to provide details on factors which have affected your performance.

After the hearing, all the evidence will be considered, a written response will be sent to you within ten working days.  The options available to the panel are:

  • To extend the improvement action plan review period.
  • Possible adjustments to the role within the remit of the grade and the operational requirements.
  • Redeploy you to alternative work on the same grade or a lower grade and pay with your manager's and your agreement. 
  • Dismissal with appropriate notice, on grounds of the lack of capability.

If a warning is issued or you are dismissed, you will have the right to appeal against the outcome.  Details of the process of appeal will be provided in the letter.

Managers' Guidance

What is Capability?

Capability issues are problems arising where a member of staff is not sustaining the acceptable level of performance needed to meet the requirements of the role in terms of the quantity and quality of work despite genuine effort.  

What do I need to do to support the member of staff to meet the requirements of the role?

On your member of staff taking up the post, you need to outline clearly the standards and expectation of the role to the post holder.  The duties listed in the job description will form the basis of the discussion. Such expectations may also be discussed as part of regular team or one-to-one meetings and may be reviewed as part of your member of staff’s annual PRDP meeting. 

I have communicated the standards against which he/she will be assessed. What do I do if I am concerned about a member of staff’s performance?

If you have any concerns, discuss it with HR in the first instance.  HR will advise how to address/raise your concerns with the individual. 

Initial Discussion

Prior to any structured support you should have an informal discussion in which you discuss barriers preventing effective performance.  You should also explore any training that would be required to bring the individual to the required standard.  Follow-up meetings should be held to assess progress and whether a more structured support is required.

Structured Support

Where there is no improvement following previous discussions, you should arrange a more structured support by setting specific objectives in order for them to meet the required standards. These may include:

  • setting specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) objectives in relation to their performance; 
  • exploring additional support and/or training that will help them to meet required standards of the role.

You will agree a reasonable period of review with your member of staff.  During the review period, you will meet regularly to review their performance and provide feedback. These meetings will provide an opportunity for you and your staff to discuss the support and/or training in place and amend or add to this where necessary.  You will also confirm your discussion and objectives, support and review period in writing.

The duration of review will depend on the nature of the performance concerns and the particular objectives set for the individual so discuss and agree a reasonable period of review. Please contact HR if you would like to discuss the duration of the review period.

During these informal meetings, make the individual aware that if they do not meet the standards required during the review period, consideration will be given to a formal performance review process. 

If your member of staff has a disability, give full consideration to their duties and make reasonable adjustments.  If you have any concerns or are unsure about what adjustments you need to make, contact HR, the Head of the Equalities, Diversity and Incusion Centre (EDIC) or Occupational Health.

Formal Action

If following a period of structured support your member of staff’s performance has not reached the required standard, you will need to discuss this with your HR representative, who will advise and support you with the formal stages of the Capability procedure.  This will involve the member of staff being invited to attend a First Formal Performance Review Meeting.

  1. HR will be present at the meeting
  2. Member of staff will be given five days’ notice of the formal meeting.
  3. Member of staff will have the right to be accompanied by Trade Union representative or work colleague.
  4. During the meeting, you will outline how your member of staff’s performance has fallen below what is required and will talk through evidence and/or examples .
  5. Member of staff will have the opportunity to provide details on anything that may be affecting performance.
  6. Additional training or any other support to help member of staff achieve and maintain required standards will be discussed and agreed.

The member of staff has the option to request for the case to be presented to another line manager, subject to the discretion of Human Resources.  Where this is agreed, you will present to the alternative manager.

After the meeting all the information provided will be considered by you and your HR representative.  The outcome may be that no further action is required, or a first written improvement notice and an improvement action plan will be issued to the individual.  This will be communicated in writing to the member of staff within 10 working days of the meeting.

Human Resources will be available to explain what you need to do and provide guidance in preparing the first improvement notice (warning) and the improvement action plan.

Where a warning is issued, the member of staff will have the right to appeal against the outcome.  Details of the process of appeal will be provided in the letter.

At the end of the first formal notice, where the standard of work has improved, no further action is required.

Where the standard of work has not improved, a Second Formal Performance Review Meeting may be held and this will be confirmed in writing. The process of the second formal performance review meeting will be the same as the first formal performance review meeting.  The outcome may be that no further action is required, or a final written improvement notice (warning) and an improvement action plan will be issued to the individual.  This will be communicated in writing to the member of staff within 10 working days of the meeting.

What happens at the end of the final improvement notice?

Where performance has improved to the standard required, no further action is required.

Where performance has not improved, the member of staff should be invited to a Formal Capability Review Hearing.   A senior manager will hear the case. 

The member of staff will be given notice of the meeting and have the right to be accompanied by Trade Union representative or work colleague.  During this meeting, you will describe to the panel the standard of work expected for the role and explain how his/her performance has fallen below the standards required. You will also provide information about measures that have been taken to support him/her to improve performance. The member of staff will have the opportunity to provide details on factors he/she feels have affected performance.

After the hearing, all the evidence will be considered, and a written response will be sent to the member of staff within 10 working days of the meeting.  The options available to the panel are:

  • To extend the improvement action plan review period.
  • Possible adjustments to the role within the remit of the grade and the operational requirements.
  • Redeploy your member of staff to alternative work on the same grade or a lower grade and pay with both your and their agreement. 
  • Dismissal with appropriate notice, on grounds of the lack of capability.

If the member of staff is issued with a warning or dismissed they have the right to appeal against the decision.  Details of the process of appeal will be provided in the letter.

Accessible documents

Some of the downloadable documents linked to on this page are not accessible. For accessible versions, please contact hrpolicy@imperial.ac.uk.