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A final written warning is a serious disciplinary process whether you are the employer or the employee, and is usually a precursor to dismissing a member of staff if their behaviour or performance does not improve.

There are some common misconceptions about when a final written warning can be issued, and many employers are not aware of their obligations when issuing a final written warning, so let’s clear up some of the confusion up.

Tips for employers issuing final written warnings

It’s good practice to have a comprehensive disciplinary policy and procedure in place before any issues arise, and you should make sure your employees are fully aware of it too. As an employer, you should familiarise yourself with the stages of the disciplinary process and ensure that they are adhered to.

Any policy should make it clear that more serious incidents will be treated as such – including when you might choose to issue a final written warning  – or even consider summary dismissal without a warning.

A final written warning should not just be a telling off. It should set out the expected change in behaviour and the time scale for the employee to improve their conduct or performance.

You should also set out the process by which the employee can respond or appeal the warning, and make clear that you reserve the right to dismiss them without further notice if their conduct or performance does not improve.

Tips for employees issued with final written warnings

If you have been issued with a final written warning, your job is in serious jeopardy, so you need to decide quickly what you want to do about it.

You may choose to appeal the warning if you think it is unfair, for example if you believe you are falling victim to constructive dismissal or a vendetta by a particular manager.

If the circumstances surrounding the final written warning are fair, then you should make sure you understand what you need to change in your behaviour or performance in order to stay in employment.

Remember that minor incidents should be dealt with verbally – written warnings, and especially a final written warning, should only be for the most serious or repeated breaches.

Resolving final written warning disputes

An employee might dispute a final written warning if they feel any of the following, or some similar reason, applies in their case:

  • They have improved their behaviour or conduct since a previous warning.
  • Their employer did not follow their own disciplinary process.
  • There is no evidence (or insufficient) to support the allegation.
  • Others have been treated less harshly for similar transgressions.
  • The problem arose due to the employer, e.g. a lack of tools or training.

If the employee chooses to dispute a final written warning, this is usually done via a written appeals process. At this point, if not before, it is advisable to take legal advice.

If you have been involved in a final written warning incident and want legal advice on your rights under employment law, contact Bray & Bray for positive, plain English advice from your local office:

Hinckley: 01455 639 900

Leicester: 0116 254 8871

Market Harborough: 01858 467 181