Issuing Final Warnings to Employees: A Guide for Employers

  • Disciplinary
Kiljon Shukullari

Kiljon Shukullari, HR Advisory Manager

(Last updated )

As an employer, it is essential to follow proper disciplinary procedures when dealing with poor performance or misconduct by your employees.

Final written warnings are an integral part of the disciplinary process and can help ensure that employees understand the seriousness of their actions and the consequences of their behaviour. In this article, we will explore what final written warnings are, when they are necessary, and how to issue them in the workplace.

What is a final warning?

A final written warning is a process that outlines an employee’s poor performance or misconduct and the consequences if it continues. This stage is usually reached after a series of previous warnings and disciplinary actions have failed to improve the employee’s behaviour. A final written warning is typically the last warning before termination of employment.

What is the law regarding final warnings?

As an employer, you have the right to issue your employees a final warning if it is appropriate. While final warnings are not an established right under employment standards legislation, it is common practice for employers to use them as part of a progressive disciplinary action scheme before termination. This is done by letting employees know that if they do not correct their behaviour, they risk being terminated.

It’s important you consider if the poor behaviour or performance is linked to a disability or a perceived disability before issuing a final warning. As an employer, you have a duty to accommodate employees under human rights legislation, which includes how an employer issues a final warning. For example, a sudden drop in performance may be linked to a disability that warrants further investigation before taking disciplinary action.

Failing to accommodate an employee who is protected under human rights legislation puts the employer at risk of a human rights complaint.

Why are final warnings so important?

Issuing a final warning is a crucial aspect of the disciplinary process in the workplace. It is imperative to ensure that you have enough evidence to justify a termination with cause. Providing the employee with reasons that support the final warning and clarifying that their behaviour is not acceptable is crucial.

Employers must maintain a documented history of how the employee’s behaviour or performance has been addressed. Documenting the steps taken to correct an employee’s behaviour or performance is critical. It establishes a paper trail and protects the employer in the event of legal action.

Furthermore, final warnings serve as an opportunity for employees to comprehend that their job is in jeopardy if they fail to amend their behaviour. A final warning can be an effective tool to encourage employees to modify their behaviour, as it underscores the gravity of their actions.

Can a first offence warrant a final warning?

In certain cases, a first and final warning may be issued if the conduct is considered serious enough. Examples of serious misconduct that could warrant a first and final warning include violating an alcohol or drug policy, breaching a confidentiality policy, threatening physical harm to a co-worker, or failing to comply with health and safety protocols.

Before issuing a final warning for a first offence, it is important for employers to assess the conduct and ensure that it aligns with the company’s disciplinary policies and procedures. Additionally, it is crucial to explain the behaviour and its impact on the workplace, and that failing to improve could lead to dismissal.

Employers should be aware that failure to properly assess and document serious misconduct before issuing a final warning could lead to legal claims being raised against them in the future. Therefore, it is important to follow due diligence in issuing final warnings, regardless of whether it is a first or subsequent offence.

Creating a final warning letter: what to include

If you need to draft a final warning letter, be sure to include the following elements:

  • Date: Clearly state the date when the letter is being written.
  • Employee Information: Provide the name of the employee involved in the incident or subject.
  • History: Mention the date of previous warnings or meetings that were conducted in order to correct the employee’s behaviour.
  • Past Incidents: Specify the number of times the employee has been warned for their misconduct.
  • Reason for Dissatisfaction: Clearly state the reason for the employer’s dissatisfaction and describe what the employee did wrong.
  • Timeframe for Improvement: Outline the amount of time the employee has to correct their behaviour.
  • Consequences: Clearly state the consequences if the employee fails to rectify their behaviour.

What are some of the reasons for final warnings?

There are various reasons why an employer may need to issue a final warning letter to an employee. Below are some of the most common reasons:

Unprofessional behaviour

This type of warning is typically issued when an employee engages in inappropriate or disruptive behaviour towards a co-worker, customer, supervisor, or company official. Examples include insubordination or spreading rumours and gossip in the workplace.

Poor performance

When an employee fails to meet the minimum standards of their job responsibilities or probationary period, or they fail to meet sales targets, an employer may need to issue a final warning letter for poor performance.

Employee misconduct

If an employee intentionally acts in a way that harms the employer, engages in theft or fraud, or causes physical harm to co-workers or other employees, they may receive a final warning letter for misconduct.


When an employee takes days off without prior approval or consistently shows up late to work, an employer may need to issue a final warning letter for absenteeism.

Best Practices for Issuing Final Warnings

As an employer, there are important practices you should adhere to when issuing a final warning to an employee. Here are some best practices:

Establish the facts

To support the reasons for the final warning, create a report of the facts gathered through an investigation into the alleged misconduct or poor performance.

Gather the evidence

Collect all relevant evidence, including documents, witnesses, complaints, or video footage.

Allow the employee to explain

Give the employee an opportunity to explain their situation. This can help you understand any contributing factors to their poor conduct or performance, which may be related to a protected ground under human rights legislation.


Communicate to the employee that previous and recent misconduct has breached your company’s policies or code of conduct. Clearly inform the employee that if they do not improve or modify their behaviour, termination may be the only option.

Length of final warning

In some cases, inform the employee that the final warning is in place for a specific period of time, especially for performance issues where sustained improvement is expected.

Offer assistance

Provide assistance to help the employee improve, especially in situations where they have a disability. Employers can offer support by modifying hours of work or reducing sales expectations, among other things.

By adhering to these best practices, employers can issue final warnings in a fair and reasonable manner.

Need Assistance with Final Warnings?

Issuing a final warning is a critical step in the disciplinary process. To ensure compliance, employers should adhere to their company’s established practices and procedures when issuing final warnings. Failure to do so can result in claims being raised against you.

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

Related articles

  • HR Advice – Legislation Changes in Alberta: Temporary Layoffs


    Charlie Herrera VacaflorEmployment Law & HR Content Senior Consultant
    • Termination
  • Temporary Layoffs: What Ontario Employers Need to Know


    Olivia CicchiniEmployment Law Expert
    • Termination
  • What employers should know about carrying out temporary layoffs correctly


    Kiljon ShukullariHR Advisory Manager
    • Termination
Back to resource hub

Try Peninsula Canada today

Find out what 6500+ businesses across Canada have already discovered. Get round-the-clock HR and health & safety support with Peninsula.

Speak to an expert 24/7

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.