It is important that you do not overlook or tolerate employees who do not follow the rules of your business. The most common way to discipline employees is by issuing a warning letter.
Documenting and issuing warning letters are a method to ensure employees understand their conduct is serious and needs to change.
In this guide, we’ll explain what an employee warning letter is, common reasons to issue one, and tips on how to write an employee warning letter.
What is an Employee Warning Letter?
An employee warning letter is a formal written document given by the employer that states an employee’s misconduct, misbehaviour, or wrongdoing. Your employee handbook should explain the misconduct that could lead to a formal warning letter to an employee.
The Law About Employee Warning Letters
It is important for employers to establish a disciplinary process for when employees violate company rules and policies. If an employee fails to rectify the issues which led to a warning letter, you may feel they have no other choice but to terminate the employee.
Having written documentation of warnings can help establish a for cause termination at common law (judge made law).
Common Reasons to Issue an Employee Warning Letter
Here are some common reasons why an employer may issue a warning letter to employees:
- Failure to reach targets.
- Lateness or tardiness.
- Unauthorized leaves of absence.
- Violation of social media policy.
- Dress code violation.
- Workplace violence or harassment.
- Violation of company rules and policies.
What is Included in an Employee Warning Letter?
You should include the following elements in a warning letter to an employee:
- Company name.
- Name of the offending employee and job title.
- Name of supervisor.
- Name of HR representative (if applicable).
- Date of issue.
- Infractions incurred by the employee.
- Consequences of failure to correct infractions.
- A plan of corrective measures.
- Supervisor signature and date.
- Employee acknowledgment statement.
- Employee signature and date.
What is the Importance of an Employee Warning Letter?
The main reason to issue a letter of warning is to inform an employee of their inappropriate behaviour. The letter will also state what needs to be rectified.
It is also important to inform them that continuation of the poor behaviour may warrant further disciplinary action. For example, when you issue an attendance absence warning letter to an employee, you should state that further absence issues may lead to discipline such as suspension or termination.
A warning letter can also be used to communicate how the employee can rectify the situation. For example, it can state that you are prepared to provide the employee with the necessary resources and support to improve poor performance.
It is important that you promote open communication for employees who may be dealing with matters protected under human rights legislation. For example, an employee may communicate that their struggle with lateness is due to their newborn keeping them up at night. This reason may fall under the protected characteristic of family.
How to Write an Employee Warning Letter
Although writing an employee warning letter may seem simple and straight forward, it is a delicate process. Here are a few key points:
- Consider the structure of the letter: An employee warning letter should have a set structure to keep it organized and easy to read.
- Explain the facts: You should clarify the facts of the situation that led you to issuing the warning letter. This includes the situation and what type of infraction the employee committed.
- Disciplinary action: A warning letter should include any disciplinary actions based off the situation. For example, an employer may suspend the employee as disciplinary action for bullying in the workplace.
- Allow the employee to explain: Giving the employee an opportunity to explain the situation helps you to determine if there were any underlying factors that led to the behaviour.
- Get the employee to sign: Ensure the employee signs the warning letter to show proof that they have received it and acknowledge its contents.
- End with a positive statement: Express that the company’s goal is to improve their relationship with the employee and chances for mutual success.
How to Give a Written Warning to an Employee
When giving a written warning letter, you need to issue a verbal warning first. To do so you should arrange a meeting to discuss the conduct.
After the meeting, you should email the employee and anyone else (e.g. manager or supervisor) to detail what was discussed. If the employee does not rectify the issues after the verbal warning, then you should draft a formal written warning letter.
You can give the employee a copy of the written warning letter after having a meeting with them. It is important that you do this in a private room, where other employees cannot hear the conversation or see the document.
If the employee works remotely, you can send them a copy of the written warning letter via email and have the employee sign the document electronically or respond to the email.
What if An Employee Refuses to Sign?
Sometimes, an employee who receives a warning letter will refuse to sign it. An employee may refuse to sign it because they disagree with the content or thinks that the document is not valid without the signature.
If you are faced with this situation, you can have a witness (e.g. manager or supervisor) acknowledge the particular employee receiving the warning letter but refused to sign it.
Get Advice on Employee Warning Letters with BrightHR
When it comes to employee warning letters, you need to be detailed, direct and straightforward. You should also review your company policies and practices regarding disciplinary measures to ensure you have followed protocol.
If you need assistance with drafting an employee warning letter, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.