A Verbal Warning
What is it and how to avoid getting it wrong
A verbal warning signals the start of a disciplinary process. It can be divided into two stages. The first stage being an informal verbal warning. This is useful where an employee's behaviour has fallen short of the required standard. It may be that they have been late for work on a regular basis and that issue needs to be addressed. It is a less confrontational way of correcting the misbehaviour or work performance shortfall. The second stage is the formal verbal warning.
How do I implement an informal verbal warning?
Make sure that the employee is aware of what standard is required. In the case of being late, the employee can hardly argue that they did not know the start time. With other performance issues it may be the case that the required standard was never fully explained to the employee.
Gather your information, eg have a note of the times the employee was late . Set up a private meeting with the employee. Do not confront them in front of work colleagues. Avoid interruptions.
Discuss with the employee what the policy and procedure is. Ask them if there is a reason why they are having a difficulty with it. Give them an opportunity to explain things from their perspective. When discussing their failure to reach the required standard, stick to the facts .Agree an action plan to achieve the improvement in performance. Let them know that although this is an informal verbal warning, you will be keeping a note of the meeting and agreed action plan on your file. This note should be signed by both parties and a copy given to the employee.It will not be put on the employee’s personnel file. The message which you wish to convey to the employee is that you value their work and this is an opportunity to improve, and to avoid having to commence the more formal disciplinary procedure.
This informal verbal warning should be carried out by the employee’s manager/supervisor.
Make sure that you read your procedures manual before conducting the meeting to ensure that you are following it to the letter.
If you do not have a procedures manual, or are not happy with the one you use, please contact us for more details on how to obtain our up to date procedures manual.
If no improvement is forthcoming, then you should commence the formal disciplinary procedure.
How do I implement a formal verbal warning?
Where the informal verbal warning and agreed improvement plan has failed to bring about an improvement in performance, the next step to consider is the formal verbal warning.
It is important to have a correct disciplinary procedure in place and to follow it without deviation.
A correct disciplinary procedure is one which follows the rules of natural justice. See here .
All employers should have up to date disciplinary procedures.
Guidelines are available
Industrial Relations Act, 1990 (Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures) (Declaration) Order, 2000,
Code of Practice, Labour Relations Commission Grievance and Disciplinary Procedure, Download here
This is a voluntary code, but is is a minimum standard which if followed correctly should ensure that you do not breach the employee’s right to fair procedures and natural justice.
See also Template for Formal Verbal Warning Letters, Download here
The Formal Verbal Warning
The formal verbal is part of an employer’s formal disciplinary procedure. You must adhere strictly to your Disciplinary procedures. It might seem that a verbal warning is just a chat to sort things out, however it is a formal process, and failure to follow procedure and the principles of natural justice will have severe consequences in an unfair dismissal claim.
Arrange a meeting to discuss the problem which has arisen concerning the employee’s behaviour/conduct. Notify the employee in writing of the time, date and venue of the meeting. Advise them that they may bring a colleague as per the company handbook.
At the meeting encourage a constructive discussion of the problem and its solution. Keep a note of the meeting. A formal letter should be sent to the employee, confirming that they received a formal verbal warning, outlining the positive changes required of them. It should also state that unless the agreed improvements are implemented it will lead to the next stage of the disciplinary process and eventual dismissal. The letter should also state the length of time that this verbal warning will stay on file (usually up to six months). The employer should assist the employee in achieving the desired improvement. Notes of any monitoring/assistance meeting should be kept.
See also Disciplinary and grievance procedures here
and Workplace procedures. Impartiality, balance and fairness here
Where can I get help with creating or updating a disciplinary and grievance policy?
The cost of getting it wrong can be punitive. It makes good econimic sense to use our experienced expertise to help you .
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