The workplace is regulated by a set of rules and directives that guide the efficiency of the business and the stability of the employer-employee relationship. Often, when an employee has stepped out of line either by act or omission, the employer may issue a warning.

The very essence of a warning is to bring to the employee’s attention that the misconduct they committed and their behaviour/actions surrounding same were inappropriate and that they should ultimately alter their actions to prevent the misconduct from happening again.

As a rule of thumb, it is essential to sit down and discuss the misconduct that has led to a warning with the specific employee. The employer should explain the following:

  • The date and time on which the employee committed the misconduct;
  • Why it is deemed as wrong (for example, it’s against the company code of conduct);
  • How the employee is expected to act in future;
  • Consequences of repeating the same mistake (may result in a disciplinary hearing).

The employer should ensure that the employee understands the contents of the warning, and if need be, an interpreter should be provided to prevent any confusion.

There is always a chance that an employee will deny ever receiving a warning or even being consulted regarding the warning. That is why it is essential to have employees date and sign the warning which is issued to them. In other instances, it may also be appropriate to have a witness sign affirming that the employee has received the warning.

If the employee refuses to sign the warning (for whatever reason), the issuer can note the warning that the employee refused to sign, and a witness can also attest to same. This note can be made under the space the employee should have signed.

Although this may seem like a burdensome exercise for the employer, it achieves two things: Firstly, it mitigates the chances of the employee committing the same misconduct. Secondly, should the employee commit the same misconduct again, it will be evidence of progressive discipline being observed towards the employee for disciplinary purposes.

Remember, a consultation regarding a warning allows rehabilitation of the employee’s behaviour. The conversation may feel uncomfortable or unnecessary at the time. Still, it is better to address and correct it before it becomes a permanent pattern of behaviour.

Article By: Zothani Maseko
Dispute Resolution Official – CEO Durban