How to give a verbal warning

09 July 2019

A verbal warning occurs when you inform an employee that if their work, behaviour, or actions within the workplace don’t improve or change, there may be further action taken against them. It's usually the first stage of a formal disciplinary procedure. What follows is a written warning if the employee’s conduct doesn't improve. In this guide, we’ll take you through your disciplinary options and help you understand whether or not to provide an employee with a verbal warning.

Verbal warning procedure

A verbal warning at work is usually given as a result of a first, or minor, infringement of your business procedures. Unlike initial letters of concern, or an informal verbal warning, which have no real recognition in law, a verbal warning is formal. This means details of what you did discuss with your employee should go on their employment file. After you do this, you should also provide them with a copy. Even though the warning is verbal, you should provide your employee with a letter to confirm you have issued the warning and what this means for them. Remember, this confirmation doesn't make your disciplinary action a written warning. It’s a written record of the verbal warning you have provided your employee with, which you may need to refer to at a later date. As such, it's advisable to keep it a copy in your records. Although the warning is verbal, follow the same formalities as with any other level of warning.

Final warnings

Before you issue a formal employee verbal warning, you should instigate the appropriate disciplinary procedure. This process includes an investigation into the alleged misconduct, as well as a formal disciplinary hearing. They have the right for accompaniment from a legal professional for the hearing. You should also inform the employee you will disregard the warning over a period of time. This is if their behaviour improves. As with all formal warnings, you must provide your employee with the chance to appeal your decision.

Verbal warning form

To ensure the accuracy of all things discussed with your employee, you may want to consider filling in a verbal warning form. This provides further notice about the discussion between yourself and your employee. The form will help avoid any inconsistencies or disputes at a later date. It’s important you maintain fair disciplinary procedures in order to avoid potentially costly claims for unfair dismissal at a later date.

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