In an employment setting, HR managers play a key role in maintaining a sound and healthy relationship that transpires between the employer and the employees. They are primarily tasked to look after the personal and professional development of the employee. On the employer’s end, HR managers have the responsibility to ensure that reasonable disciplinary measures are established and consistently followed in regulating and monitoring employee conduct especially in cases of policy violations.
In line with this, employment warning letters are tools used by employers in formally informing and calling the attention of an employee regarding the latter’s unacceptable behavior or misconduct. However, warning letters must be issued with utmost diligence because the managerial rights of the employer must be balanced with the rights of the employee to due process that is to give every employee the opportunity to tell his or her side of the story.
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Prerequisites before Drafting a Warning Letter
It must be established that a letter of warning addressed to an employee is a formal document that has legal effects. The process of writing a letter of warning may sound technical at first. However, once you get acquainted with the process, it will be easy along the way. When it comes to prerequisites before drafting the said letter, it may vary from country to country depending on the labor laws and policies of a certain state. Generally, the following requisites are observed.
Schedule a meeting with the employee.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss with the employee the alleged violation, misconduct, or breach committed by the employee. The employer, specifically the HR officer assigned, has to direct the attention of the employee to the said issue and give the latter a chance to provide reasons, if there are any.
Document the salient discussions during the meeting.
The salient points discussed and raised during the meeting must be properly documented with the appropriate tools for recording meeting minutes. As much as possible, the accurate responses and defenses of the employee must be recorded.
Make a sound decision.
After hearing both sides of the story, the employer now can come up with a sound decision if the employee rightfully deserves to be forwarded with a warning letter. The rationale for the decision must be duly recorded and documented.
If the designated HR officer and the other authorized supervisors of the company reached a consensus that the employee indeed committed the said violations, then a warning letter must be given with respect to the said violation.
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Common Reasons or Grounds for Writing an Employment Warning Letter
Can you imagine how frustrating it would be for the employee to receive a warning letter which does not state a valid or clear reasons? Such scenario can truly affect the employee’s level of trust and confidence given to his or her employers. Moreover, it will also be very unprofessional on the part of the employer. To help you avoid such scenario, it is a must that you cite valid, clear, and reasonable grounds in your employee warning letter.
Here are some of the common reasons for writing an employee warning letter:
- Poor Performance
These are some reasonable grounds for writing an employee warning letter. Furthermore, there can still be other valid grounds provided that they are lawful and reasonable.
Types of Employment Warnings
Other than the clarity of the grounds and reasons cited, the format of the said letter will depend on the type of warning letter called for and suited for a certain case. There are 3 major types of warning letter which can successively addressed to the employee if he or she fails to positively respond to the initial warning issued unless the violation committed by an employee calls for termination or dismissal.
Oral or Verbal Warning
This is the first type of warning that the employee will receive from his or her employers. For this type of warning, employer is just calling the attention of the employee for a alleged minor misconduct or misbehavior. Take note that even is this is verbally conveyed, appropriate documentation must still be at place.
First Written Warning
Most employers prefer to use first written warning letters to address minor violations committed by the employee at a first instance. In here, the employee must fully understand the reason and ground for the said warning letter. For example, the letter can contain citations regarding the alleged policy violation committed by the employee. Both the employer and the employee must affix their signatures in the letter. In this kind of warning letter, the employer can indicate statements regard future warnings if the employee fails to respond positively or appropriately.
Furthermore, the employer may subject the employee to coaching, interventions, and other necessary measures to assist the employee in progressively coming up with a positive response.
Final Written Warning
An employee will only receive this type of letter if he or she fails to respond accordingly to the preceding warning letters or has committed a major or serious company offense. A final written warning letter must clearly indicate that the such failure to comply with the conditions of the warning letter may entail termination or dismissal. Moreover, the employee is mostly given a certain period to comply with the conditions of the letter.
Like the other types of warning letter, proper documentation must be in place.
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Essential Inclusions of an Employee Warning Letter
There are variations as to the inclusions of an employment warning letter depending on its type and the reason wherein it was grounded. However, there are common components observed by most employers.
Basic Details of the Employee
This refers to the full name of the employee, the designation or job title, the department where he or she belongs and his or her immediate supervisor.
Type of Warning Letter
As discussed above, this may refer to any of the mentioned types of employee warning letter depending on the case at hand.
Statement as to the Violation Committed by the Employee
It must be clearly indicated and cited in the letter the details as to the violation or instance of misbehavior committed by the employee. Take note that the nature of the violation contextualize the grounds for writing the warning letter and the sanctions that may be provided. Moreover, the provision in the employee code of conduct or employment contract which was not observed by the said employee can be included for clarity purposes.
Detailed Statement or Summary of the Employee’s Responses During the Meeting or Review
It is a settled rule that a preliminary discussion or meeting with the employee must be conducted by the HR personnel designated. This is done to know the employee’s reasons and side of the story and that allegations were proven to be substantial and with basis.
Consequences of the Employee’s Conduct
In a professional manner, let the employee understand the negative consequences of his or her actions. As an employer, you should remind your employees that any negative act done by him or her can have negative effect in the overall operations and reputation of the company. The employee must consider the bigger picture and how his or her actions affect the dynamics of the company.
Conditions or Actions Recommended by the Employer
To avoid further disciplinary measures that usually go with a disciplinary warning letter, you may give the employee certain conditions to comply within a particular period in order to rectify his or her actions. Furthermore, you may also give a reminder regarding the personal and professional standards enshrined in the employment contract that the employee has to comply with.
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Writing Tips: Substantiate and Stick to the Point
If you’re planning to write an employee warning letter, you need to take note of two basic yet helpful principles.
Substantiate your claims.
It is a rule of thumb in dealing with warning letters that mere allegations do not suffice. You must back up your claims with sufficient proof such as in the case of documents, warning notices, records of infractions, and many more. You need to consolidate and sort out all pertinent documents. Taking matters of evidence seriously does not connote an action which is anti-employee, but a positive one because you want the employee to understand why he or she was given a warning letter.
Stick to the point.
Be concise and straightforward. In enumerating the relevant factual antecedents, stick to the relevant one and avoid including unnecessary ones. This principle also requires the employer to be objective from the review of the employee’s conduct until the actual writing of the letter. Avoid unnecessary subjective commentaries in the letter.
By referring to the information, templates, and writing techniques provided here, you may start writing your employment warning letter. Just ensure to duly uphold your employees right to procedural fairness or due process. Make it concise, substantial, and effective.