May 15, 2019

No business owner hires a team of employees with intentions of needing to conduct disciplinary procedures.

The harsh reality, however, is that they will be required at one time or another.

A verbal warning is often the first stage of such action however it may be better to consider a written warning to avoid any ambiguity over what has been said.

The Definition Of A Verbal Warning 

A verbal warning is the first, and therefore least severe, type of formal discipline.

Employers may need to utilise this in a number of situations, but it is ultimately used to express displeasure at an employee’s current conduct.

It additionally serves to inform the culprit that failure to improve will lead to further action.

The employer’s displeasure may relate to the employee’s work, behaviour, or actions within the workplace.

In today’s climate, this can often extend to how the staff member represents the brand, particularly online.

A verbal warning is more serious than any informal discussion and should be respected by employers and employees alike.

Unlike informal suggestions, a formal verbal warning will be recognised in employment law.

The Verbal Warning Procedure

Given that verbal warnings are a formal disciplinary action, it’s imperative that you follow the right procedures.

Even if they are usually used as a result of a first or minor infringement of the company policies, their significance should not be dismissed.

Employers have a responsibility to get it right as this will provide clarity for the employee while simultaneously protecting the company’s best interests.

When issuing a verbal warning, the following steps are necessary:

  • A record of the misdemeanours or conflict of the company procedures should be noted in advance as the employee deserves to hear the complaint in a clear and concise fashion.
  • The employee should be taken to a quiet location before having the displeasure explained in a calm yet unambiguous fashion, including the consequences if things don’t change.
  • Following the verbal warning, the employer should record the details of what was said and filed in the employee’s employment record. This should be dated.
  • The employee should be sent a letter to confirm that the formal verbal warning was issued. A copy should be kept in the company files too.
  • It is a smart move to create or download a standardised verbal warning form for recording purposes.

Essentially, a formal verbal warning needs to be given the same level of care and attention as any other disciplinary action.

Doing this is in the best interests of the company, employer, and employee.

Resources to help your business

Letter of Concern (template)

Before & After The Verbal Warning

While a verbal warning isn’t as serious as some disciplinary actions, it is still a formal situation.

Therefore, it may be possible to reach a better conclusion through informal warnings.

However, not all employees will respond to these, which is why employers should not fear the prospect of using verbal warnings.

Following the verbal warning, employees should be given a right to respond and contest the decision, using legal representatives if they desire – although it shouldn’t come to that.

Meanwhile, many employers promise to disregard the complaint if improvements are shown within a set period of time.

Ultimately, the purpose of verbal warnings is to encourage employees to get better. At this stage, escalating things further should be viewed as a last resort.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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