How to Draft an Employee Warning Letter: Advice for Employers

  • Disciplinary
How to Draft an Employee Warning Letter: Advice for Employers
Olivia Cicchini

Olivia Cicchini, Employment Law Expert

(Last updated )

In today’s business world, maintaining a productive and positive workplace is essential to the success of any company. However, when employees fail to meet the expectations of their job, employers must take appropriate action to address the situation. One such tool for managing employee performance is the employee warning letter. In this article, we will explore what an employee warning letter is, how it can benefit Canadian employers, and provide guidance on how to effectively issue and document an employee warning letter.

What is an employee warning letter?

An employee warning letter, also known as a written warning or disciplinary letter, is a formal document that an employer provides to an employee when their performance or behaviour falls below expected standards. 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.

An employee warning letter also outlines the steps the employee must take to improve their performance or behaviour. In essence, an employee warning letter is a way for employers to communicate with their employees in a clear and concise manner about what is expected of them, and the consequences of not meeting those expectations.

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 employees that the 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.

What is the law regarding 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:

  • Negligence
  • Failure to reach targets
  • Lateness or tardiness
  • Unauthorized leaves of absence
  • Insubordination
  • Violation of social media policy
  • Dress code violation
  • Workplace violence or harassment
  • Violation of company rules and policies

What are the benefits of issuing an employee warning letter?

As a Canadian employer, issuing an employee warning letter can be an effective way to manage employee performance and behaviour. Some of the key benefits of issuing an employee warning letter include:

Clarify Expectations: An employee warning letter provides an opportunity for employers to clearly communicate their expectations to employees. By outlining specific areas where improvement is required, employers can provide employees with a clear understanding of what they need to do to meet the expectations of their job.

Document Concerns: An employee warning letter serves as a record of the employer’s concerns and expectations. By documenting the issue at hand, employers can protect themselves in the event of future legal action or disputes.

Improve Performance: An employee warning letter can be an effective tool for improving employee performance. By outlining specific areas where improvement is required and providing a timeline for the employee to take corrective action, employers can give employees an opportunity to improve their performance and avoid further disciplinary action.

Maintain a Positive Workplace: Issuing an employee warning letter can help maintain a positive workplace by clearly communicating the expectations and consequences to employees. When employees understand what

What should be 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

How to give a written warning to an employee

When it comes to issuing a written warning to an employee, it is important to first provide a verbal warning. To do so, schedule a meeting with the employee to discuss their behaviour or performance.

After the meeting, send an email to the employee and anyone else involved, such as their manager or supervisor, summarizing what was discussed. If the employee fails to correct their behaviour or performance after the verbal warning, it is necessary to prepare a formal written warning letter.

When delivering the written warning, ensure that it takes place in a private setting where other employees cannot hear or see the conversation or document. If the employee works remotely, you can send the written warning letter via email and ask them to sign it electronically or reply to the email. Finally, provide the employee with a copy of the written warning letter after the meeting.

What if an employee refuses to sign?

In some cases, an employee may refuse to sign a warning letter they have received, perhaps because they disagree with its contents or consider it invalid without their signature. In this scenario, you can ask a witness, such as a manager or a supervisor, to acknowledge that the employee received the warning letter, even if they refused to sign it.

Do you need help tailoring an employee warning letter?

As a Canadian employer, issuing an employee warning letter can help you maintain a productive and respectful workplace by clearly communicating your expectations and giving employees an opportunity to improve their performance or behaviour. A well-drafted warning letter can also help protect your business from potential legal issues.

If you need assistance with drafting an employee warning letter, our experts at Peninsula can provide you with quality advice on any employment issues you may have. Contact us on 1 (833) 247-3652

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