The Dreaded Performance Improvement Plan

by | May 9, 2016 | For Employees

We often receive calls from employees who have received a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). This can be a stressful time and employees may feel worried about their employment future. Understanding the law about performance issues and knowing how to respond to a PIP helps relieve some of the worry.

Just Cause for Poor Performance

Just cause is a legal term that means an employer is justified in terminating an employee and not providing the employee with any notice of termination at common law. An employee can agree that certain misconduct is deemed to be just cause in an employment contract; otherwise, the courts generally decide what constitutes just cause.

To determine whether there is just cause to fire an employee without notice, a judge will consider the seriousness of the conduct. Just cause dismissal is warranted when the misconduct is sufficiently serious that it strikes at the heart of the employment relationship.

In cases of performance, the court will consider whether the employer conveyed to the employee the standard of performance required and whether the employer supported or assisted the employee in reaching that standard.  Typically, this process takes time. So, one Performance Improvement Plan is not likely to result in termination for cause.  However, the employer may be laying the groundwork to terminate for cause down the road if the employee’s performance does not improve.


The court will also look at the context. Is something occurring in the employee’s life to cause the behaviour – for example a mental health crisis or death in the family.

What can employees do?

It is important that an employee respond to Performance Improvement Plan.  However, that response will usually be specific to the employee’s position, the concerns raised in the PIP, and any other issues in the employee’s life which may be relevant to the context.

We recommend that employees who have been provided with a PIP contact an employment lawyer to discuss how to respond. The purpose is to prevent the employer from building a case to terminate the employee for cause.  There may also be disability or other workplace concerns that have resulted in the PIP that the employee should raise with the employer.

If you have received a PIP or warnings about your performance a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm can assist you. Please contact us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.

The material and information in this blog and this website are for general information only. They should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. The authors make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information referred to in this blog or its links. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found on this website or blog. Readers should obtain appropriate professional advice from a lawyer duly licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. These materials do not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and any of the authors or the MacLeod Law Firm.



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