Issuing warnings or warning letters is a very important part of the disciplinary process in the workplace. It is important that you discipline employees for misconduct, negative behaviour, or poor performance.
However, if an employee continues to misbehave or things do not change, you may have to let them know that they are on their last chance. The best way to do this is by issuing a final warning.
In this guide, we’ll explain what a final warning is, the importance of them, and tips on how to draft a final warning letter.
What is a Final Warning?
It is often the final stage of the progressive disciplinary process. A final warning at work is usually a precursor to termination of the employee if they fail to correct their behaviour. They must comply with the conditions set in the final warning or they risk being terminated.
The Law Regarding Final Warnings
As an employer, you have the right to issue your employees a final warning if it is appropriate.
Final warnings are not an established right under employment standards legislation. However, it is common practice for employers to use final warnings as a step before termination. This is done by letting them 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.
Employers 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.
What is the Importance of a Final Warning?
It is important to issue a final warning to ensure you have enough evidence to meet the high threshold for a termination with cause. You should inform the employee about the reasons in support the final warning and that their behaviour is not tolerated by you or your business.
As an employer, it is in your best interest to keep a paper trail that shows you notified the employee about their performance or behaviour. You must record the steps taken to help the employee correct them.
Final warnings are also a way for employees to realize that their job is at risk if they do not correct their behaviour.
Can you Get a Final Warning for First Offence?
You can issue a first and final warning if the conduct is serious enough. Serious misconduct includes behaviour that could result in harm to an employee, co-workers, or the company itself.
Some examples of this are:
- Violating an alcohol or drug policy.
- Breaching a confidentiality policy.
- Threatening physical harm to a co-worker.
- Failing to comply with health and safety protocols.
It is important that you assess the conduct before issuing any final written warnings. You must comply with the company’s disciplinary policies and procedures.
Moreover, it is important that you explain the conduct and that not improving could lead to dismissal.
Failure to do so can lead to claims being raised against you in the future.
How do I Draft a Final Warning Letter?
Below are the things you need to include in a final warning letter:
- The date of writing the letter.
- The name of the employee who is involved in the incident or subject.
- The date of previous warnings or meetings to correct the behaviour.
- The number of times the employee has been warned for their misconduct.
- The reason for the employer’s dissatisfaction (i.e. what the employee did wrong).
- The amount of time the employee has to correct their behaviour.
- Consequences if the employee fails to rectify their behaviour.
Reasons for Final Warnings Letters
There can be several reasons to issue a final warning. Below are a few common reasons an employer may have to issue one:
Final warning letter for unprofessional behavior
- Inappropriate or disruptive behavior towards a co-worker, customer, supervisor, or company official.
- Insubordination or failing to follow a manager’s reasonable instruction.
- Spreading rumours or gossip in the workplace.
Final warning letter for poor performance
- Failure to meet the minimum standards of the job responsibilities.
- Failure to meet the minimum standards of the probationary period.
- Failure to meet sales targets.
Final warning letter to employee for misconduct
- An intentional act that harms the employer.
- Theft or fraud.
- Intentional acts of physical harm to co-workers or other employees.
Final warning for absenteeism
- Taking days off without prior approval.
- Showing up late to work consistently.
Best Practices for Issuing Final Warnings for Employers
It is important that you keep in mind the following practices when issuing final warnings:
- Establish the facts: You should create a report of the facts that were gathered through an investigation into the alleged misconduct or poor performance. This will act as evidence to support the reasons for the final warning.
- Gather the evidence: This could be in the form of documents, witnesses, complaints, or video footage.
- Allow the employee to explain: You should allow the employee to explain their situation. You can potentially discover reasons that have contributed to their poor performance or conduct, which may be related to a protected ground under human rights legislation.
- The likely consequences: Inform the employee that if they do not improve or change, that you have no other choice but to terminate the employee.
- The length of the final warning: In some cases, it is important that you inform the employee that the final warning is in place over a period of time. This is especially common for performance issues where employers want to see sustained improvement.
- Any assistance you can offer: Especially in situations where the employee has a disability, it is important that you offer assistance in helping them to improve.
Whether that being changing hours of work or reducing sale expectations, there are various ways employers can help employees improve if they are issued a final warning.
Get Advice on Final Warnings at Work with BrightHR
A final warning letter is an important step in the disciplinary process. Employers should follow their company’s established practices and procedures when issuing final warning letters to ensure compliance.
Failure to get it right can lead to claims being raised against you. If you need assistance with drafting an employee final warning letter, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.