Tips for Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs)

March 14, 2023

Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) are an increasingly common tool utilised by employers to manage cases of poor work performance. A Performance Improvement Plan is not a legal requirement and there is no legal definition of same. A PIP can be understood to be a documented plan which outlines the improvements in performance required from an individual employee and the timeline for achieving these improvements.

This article will provide three top tips for employers when placing employees on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

1. Clarity on objectives

The objective of a PIP process is to make the employee aware of the concerns you have regarding their performance and give them a set timeframe in which to improve. It is vital that employees are fully aware of the process involved and clear on what they are expected to achieve according to the PIP. When implementing any type of performance management process, the goals and targets set in the PIP should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound).

2. Time to improve

It is well established through case law, that the reasonableness of an employer’s management of underperformance will be judged in part by the timeframe afforded to the employee to affect the performance improvement. A PIP of reasonable duration should ensure that the employer meets this requirement. This time may also allow the parties the opportunity to explore alternatives to formal disciplinary action such as transfer or demotion where it is apparent that the employee’s skillset is not appropriate to the role.

In deciding on the appropriate timeframe between performance reviews the business should consider the complexity of the role and if the employee will have had ample opportunity to meet the goals as per the PIP. It would also be advised that this timeframe should be agreed with the employee from the outset and that they consider it fair and reasonable based on their role.

3. Support and training

It is important to remember that PIPs only work where the appropriate surrounding structures are in place. These include a proper induction and (ongoing) training, clear role descriptions and clear documented targets/goals, managers who are willing to tackle underperformance and a means of objectively measuring performance. All supports provided should be documented by the employer.

Following the above steps will greatly assist an employer in showing that the performance management process conducted by the employer was procedurally fair and that any subsequent terminations on the basis of competency were justified in the circumstances. It is important to note PIPs are not a replacement for formal disciplinary action. Not all employees will show the necessary improvements following the PIP process, if this is the case, employers will need to initiate the Company disciplinary procedure. Employers must manage this process in line with the Company’s disciplinary policy, whilst adhering with S.I. No. 146/2000 - Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.


Ibec Academy are facilitating one session on ‘Peak Performance – Getting the Best from Your Team  on 29 September 2023 – further information can be found here. SFA members can avail of the discounted ‘Ibec member rate’ for Ibec Academy courses.


SFA recently recorded a webinar on ‘Top Tips for Managing Performance Improvement Plan (PIPs)’ – the recording is available here. You can also view the ‘Performance Management’ section of the SFA website here. If you have a query on performance management, please contact Fiona on 01 6051557 or