The basics of writing a written warning

When utilising written warnings, employers must ensure that the correct information is included, and the disciplinary process is followed properly.
The basics of writing a written warning

Contrary to popular belief, there’s actually no legislative requirement specifying that an employee must be given a certain number of written warnings before being terminated. However, it’s worth noting that industrial tribunals have consistently upheld unfair dismissal claims where an employee hasn’t had ample opportunity to respond to or improve performance concerns over a reasonable period.

And this is why when utilising written warnings, employers must ensure that the correct information is included, and the disciplinary process is followed properly.

Here we unpack exactly what a written warning should include and why you can’t afford to get them wrong.

Don’t forget about procedural fairness

Before writing and issuing a formal warning, business owners must hold a formal meeting with the concerned team member(s). Doing this will allow all parties an opportunity to discuss their concerns and respond to them. When arranging this formal meeting, businesses should:

  • Provide the employee with a written invitation to the meeting;
  • Schedule the meeting at least 24 hours’ in advance; and
  • Invite the employee to bring a support person.

While this process may seem tedious, it’s critical businesses adhere to these requirements otherwise the procedural fairness of the disciplinary process can be called into question.

What must be included in a written warning?

 Typically, written warning letters must:

  • Include the date of issue;
  • Be titled according to its intention e.g., first, second, or final written warning;
  • Outline the reasons for it being issued;
  • Make it clear the employment relationship is at risk unless performance improves; and
  • State that all contents and information discussed are to remain confidential.

Meeting these requirements isn’t only about ensuring you cover all your bases but also avoiding any potential fallout resulting in an unfair dismissal claim.

There’s no expectation that a written warning must be a masterpiece! When it comes down to it, you’re business owners, not legal advisors. However, if you follow the correct processes you can trust that you’re on track to drafting and providing a watertight warning letter that reflects best-practice and meets compliance standards.

For more information about written warnings and how to write them, please reach out to workplace relations experts via our 24/7 HR Advice Line.

Not a Citation HR client? To learn more about how Citation HR can help your business, contact us here.

About our author

Carla Novacevski is a Workplace Relations Advisor based at Citation HR’s Melbourne Office. In her role at Citation HR, Carla tends to client queries via the HR Advice Line. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Commerce and Law, majoring in Accounting, and is passionate about expanding her knowledge through a variety of placements in multiple areas of law.

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