Performance improvement plans may lead to a settlement. But what are PIPs and your rights?

What is a performance improvement plan (or PIP)?

In essence, a PIP is a written document. It contains a number of time-constrained work-related goals designed specifically to be attained by you, the employee, if and when if your employer thinks your work performance needs significant improvement.

A performance improvement plan is typically spread over anything from 30 to 90 days, so as to give you enough time to achieve the goals set out in it. These goals should be:


  1. realistically achievable in the time allotted
  2. prioretised if appropriate
  3. consistent with your qualifications, skills sets and job description
  4. objectively measurable/quantifiable in some way
  5. designed specifically to meet identified shortcomings in your present job performance.


What are your rights when participating in a PIP?

Your rights begin from before the commencement of your plan, through your attainment of the goals set out in it, and beyond. They include the right to the conduct of a fair PIP procedure from start to finish as summarised below:

1.Before you embark on the plan: Before you agree to participate in a performance improvement plan, you have a right to know why you have been selected for it.  A PIP may not be the best way to meet your work-related needs and you might have been targeted to fail the PIP exercise, just so your employer can get rid of you.

You should ideally be involved in drawing up your plan, but if not, you should at least have the goals explained clearly to you so that you fully understand them. Your PIP goals should of course also be correctly identified and clearly specified, as above.

2.During the PIP timescale :  Once you’ve embarked on your PIP, you may discover that some of the goals are not achievable within the time allocated to them, or for reasons outside of your control.  Your employer should be asked to revise any such goals, but if they won’t, then you have a potentially unfair procedure.

3.At the end of the PIP timescale: Similarly, if you haven’t achieved every single one of the goals, then there is once more potential for a dispute, especially if your employer starts disciplinary proceedings as a result.


Should you stay or leave?

If you have successfully completed your PIP, then of course you have the right to continue in your current job and you may be relieved and delighted to do so.

However, at any point in the procedure, you may decide that you are just being badly treated, that you don’t want to continue and that it’s time to leave your employment. But under what terms should you be leaving?


If you leave, can you get a settlement agreement payment?

You may be entitled to leave with rather more than just statutory notice pay.  If your rights have not been upheld at any point before, during or after your performance improvement procedure, you may be entitled to financial compensation for having been put through an unfair and stressful experience.

Taking a claim to an employment tribunal is a last resort and settlement by negotiation is always preferrable.  Your employer may prefer it that way too, once they understand that you probably have a valid claim against them

At the very least, it’s worth investigating whether you might have a claim arising out of your PIP experience and whether you might be able to leave with a settlement agreement.  For a start, have a look at our more detailed PIPs article.


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