Dismissal Following Warnings

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There is no set number of warnings that must be given to an employee about unsatisfactory performance or conduct, but there should be at least one warning of possible dismissal, including instructions for improvement of work performance or conduct, and a set time for a review of performance or conduct.

By far the most common reason for this type of dismissal is usually because of unsatisfactory performance or behaviour.

Unsatisfactory Performance

Performance relates to the way that an employee performs their job. Examples of poor performance include:

  • Frequent mistakes;
  • Not following assigned tasks through;
  • Unable to cope with instructions given;
  • Attitude to work, i.e. poor interpersonal skills, lack of commitment and drive;
  • Lack of apparent skill in tasks/method of work required; and
  • Consistently not achieving agreed and realistic set targets/objectives.

Misconduct & Behavioural Issues

Misconduct is an employee’s behaviour that is not performance-based and implies an act done wilfully with a wrong intention. Examples of misconduct include:

  • Arriving late or missing shifts;
  • Poor presentation and appearance;
  • Misuse of company computers and social media;
  • Unexplained absences;
  • Leaking confidential documents and other information; and
  • Abusive behaviour towards clients or customers.

An important distinction needs to be made between misconduct and behavioural issues and matters which would be defined as serious misconduct that may have the potential to result in instant dismissal.

For more information, refer to our knowledge base article on instant dismissal for serious misconduct.

Managing Unsatisfactory Performance & Behaviour

Depending on the nature and seriousness of the instance of underperformance or behavioural issues, it may be adequate for managers to address underperformance via informal strategies before embarking on a formal disciplinary process with the employee.

For more information, refer to our knowledge base article on managing unsatisfactory performance and behavior.

Written Warnings

If the employee does not make improvements in the areas identified through informal strategies to managing underperformance, the manager should embark a formal disciplinary process by organising a meeting with the employee with the result of this meeting being a written warning. The meeting should exclusively address the issues raised in the informal counselling and verbal warning stages

The employee should be given reasonable notice of disciplinary meetings (usually 24 hours).

Following the meeting and after due consideration of the employee’s responses, a written warning letter should be prepared and given to the employee in a brief meeting, preferably within 24 hours of the meeting. The letter should confirm the following:

  • A brief description of the behaviour/performance issue that resulted in the disciplinary meeting;
  • The outcome of the meeting i.e. the employee will be issued with a warning letter;
  • Timeframes in which the improvement is expected to occur;
  • The seriousness of the program and the effect on future employment; and
  • Details of when a follow up meeting will take place.

The employee should sign this letter: Performance Improvement & Warning Template HR Documents

Performance Improvement Plan

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) can also be provided to the employee, and a copy of this should be kept on the employee’s file.

A performance improvement plan is a document that sets out what the problem is with an employee’s performance and what they need to do to improve it.

Key areas to document in a PIP are:

  • Date of discussion;
  • Reasons for discussion;
  • Manner in which employee is expected to improve his or her performance;
  • The time period for the employee to improve his or her performance; and
  • Any relevant check-in points with their manager during the PIP period.


If the employee fails to modify their performance or behaviour after warning(s), within the agreed timeframe, termination should be initiated.

Prior to the final meeting, the employee should be put on notice that the meeting is being held to discuss possible termination of the employee’s employment and that they may have a witness present if they wish.

Any other grounds that brought about the final decision to terminate the employment should also be identified. It is important to ask the employee for an explanation and allow them a fair opportunity to respond to concerns over their unsatisfactory performance or conduct. Listen to the explanation and assess whether you should fairly consider it as counting against the termination. If the explanation is unsatisfactory, advise the employee that you are terminating their employment and state the relevant notice period or a payment in lieu of that notice period.

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The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.

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