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How often should I do appraisals and what should be included?

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Although some employers may treat appraisals as no more than a tick box exercise, or find conversations on poor performance difficult, they are important. While there is no legal requirement for you to carry out appraisals with your employees, they can be useful in monitoring and supporting their performance. How often they should be held will depend on your business, but the more regularly they are scheduled, the better. In this article, our Employment Law team explore this in further detail and also explain why you should hold appraisals, what should be included in them and what can happen if you don’t hold them.

Why should I hold appraisals with my employees?

An effective appraisal system can positively impact your employee’s performance by increasing their motivation, which in turn will benefit you as the employer.

Having set annual appraisals enables you to reflect on particular observations on your employees’ performance; however, conducting appraisals only once a year means opportunities to learn and improve may be lost due to the time between the reviews. Ongoing performance reviews or a series of mini-appraisals throughout the year can help avoid this.

Often, employees may not be aware of their shortcomings and so will not have been given the opportunity to improve. Appraisals can give them this opportunity and help you track their development. They can also help employees to be recognised and rewarded which ensures they feel valued for the work that they do. You can use appraisals to assess whether to reward staff with salary increases, promotions or bonuses. It’s also an opportunity to provide verbal feedback and praise as rewarding success does not have to be financial.

Appraisal scores could also be useful to you in a redundancy selection process as you have to adopt fair selection criteria and apply them fairly. Having detailed notes on performance and opportunities to develop and improve can be an important tool to help you determine how the selection criteria apply to the employee.

What happens if I don’t hold appraisals with my employees?

If you want to adopt a fair reason and dismiss a poor performing employee, not having conducted appraisals could become an issue later on. Dismissing could also become a problem if you have not been truthful in a previous appraisal.

Without formal appraisals any issues are unlikely to have been recorded, even if raised with that employee in person. With no written documentation recording your previous discussions or the implementation of an improvement plan, there will be no paper trail to prove any consistent performance failures by your employee.

Appraisals are not a disciplinary process and should not be used to impose disciplinary sanctions. However, you can deal with issues relating to performance by referring to past employee appraisals if you start an employee improvement or capability process.

What is included in a good appraisal process?

During the appraisal you should consider whether your employee has met their targets and identify how they have been achieved. This will enable you to discuss the skills the employee has gained as well as those that could be improved. Regular appraisals will help you to set achievable objectives and to ensure these are being met on a consistent basis.

A good appraisal should be a two-way process, where employees are encouraged to speak honestly and openly about:

  • their job;
  • their performance;
  • their future with the company;
  • identifying training needs;
  • any concerns they have.

Both you and the employee should agree specific action points, targets or objectives which can be followed up throughout the year.

An appraisal should be held in private, on a one-to-one basis with employees who are given enough notice.

After the meeting, employees should be given a written report of their appraisal, which could include:

  • personal details, including job title and description;
  • a performance review of specific areas of work;
  • an overall performance rating;
  • comments from the appraiser;
  • their comments about their performance;
  • a personal development plan or action plan.

You should use an appraisal system that is tailored to your company’s needs and to train your managers and those giving the appraisals to apply a fair approach to all of your employees. You should ensure employees are given a copy of their appraisal and ensure that the content is agreed by both parties.

If you would like guidance on how to implement an appraisal system, or guidance on any disciplinary proceedings or policies, then you can contact our Employment team on 023 8071 7717 or email

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This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.