Can I Just Give a Verbal Warning?
We often talk to businesses who tell us they have issued a ‘verbal warning’ to employees but what they really mean is that they have given an informal verbal warning, which is very different in the eyes of employment law.
At the outset, in the event that an employee’s performance or conduct is unsatisfactory, the disciplinary procedure generally begins with an informal discussion where the employee’s shortcomings are explained, and the employee has a chance to explain their actions. This may result in you verbally outlining improvements, but this is not a formal warning.
If an informal discussion is insufficient to resolve the issue, then the next step to take is to have a formal disciplinary meeting with the employee. What disciplinary action to take as a result of the meeting is entirely at the employer’s discretion. A recorded verbal warning is the least severe of these and remains on the employee’s file for 6 months. A verbal warning states that any further misconduct renders the employee liable to further, more severe disciplinary action.
If you do not see the required improvement after an informal discussion / warning, then you may decide to take formal disciplinary action. In this case, an employee is clearly invited to a hearing and the issues / evidence are presented in advance. After completing the hearing, then you may decide to issue a formal warning which usually starts with a verbal warning which ironically is issued in writing.
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