Issuing warnings to underperforming employees will never be easy. However, if you intend to do so, it will be beneficial for you to follow a predetermined process. This process will ensure you can rely on such a 'warning' in subsequent termination. Additionally, it ensures that the employee understands the requirements they must fulfil to keep their job. This article will take you through the key steps to issuing a formal warning to an employee to help you implement a warning policy in your workplace.

Provide Notice

Primarily, it would help if you gave your employee sufficient notice of the meeting. Essentially, you should notify them that the meeting will occur to discuss their performance and that they can have a support person present if they prefer.

Providing the employee with notice will allow them to prepare for the meeting emotionally adequately. They may also wish to prepare their points for discussion at the meeting. Furthermore, providing notice will ensure a non-confrontational environment where the employee feels safe and comfortable.

Be Clear

At the meeting, you must be clear in your explanation of how the employee is underperforming. Additionally, you should be able to provide specific examples of underperformance and compare these examples to the duties of their role. Doing this will explain further how their work does not measure up.

For example, you might:

  • outline the requirements for someone in your employee's position;
  • describe examples of their current performance; and
  • explain the discrepancies.

Alternatively, you might even compare the employee's current work to their previous work and note the difference in performance. Whatever examples you choose to provide, your complaint about the employee's work must be well articulated and defined.

Set Expectations

At the meeting, you should precisely outline what improvements you expect to see in your employee's performance. Moreover, you should be able to measure these improvements. This will help the employee stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Furthermore, if you intend to terminate their employment if you fail to see improvement in their performance, you must clarify this.

For instance, you can make this clear by having the employee acknowledge the fact by asking: "Do you understand that failure to show improvement in these areas within the next three weeks may result in the termination of your employment?"

Contrary to popular belief, there is no requirement for two or three warnings before termination can occur. Instead, if you allow the employee to improve and satisfy the Fair Work Act requirements, you may terminate the employment agreement.

Provide an Opportunity to Respond

It would help if you allowed the employee to respond to your comments about their underperformance. For example, there may be some issues in the workplace that you were unaware of that impact the employee's performance, such as another employee passing on unapproved tasks.

Alternatively, circumstances in the employee's personal life might impact their work performance. Whatever the case, providing the employee with the opportunity to respond will allow you to assess the situation better. For example, you can determine if the employee is underperforming or if extenuating circumstances harm their work.

Set a Further Review

You should set a time for further review at the end of your meeting. The time afforded must be a reasonable amount of time to allow the employee to show improvement. However, what is 'reasonable' will vary depending on the individual role. However, as a general rule of thumb, you should never set a further review for less than two weeks after your meeting.

Additionally, when setting a further review, you should follow up the meeting with written confirmation of the discussion. This will ensure a written copy of the discussion and the opportunity for the employee to improve their performance.

Having the discussion in writing will be invaluable in the event of a subsequent claim for unfair dismissal.

Key Takeaways

Following a predetermined process when issuing warnings to underperforming employees can help make a difficult discussion less daunting. Further, following such a procedure is both fair to the employee and essential to you as an employer in the event of a subsequent claim for unfair dismissal. The key steps you should follow when issuing a formal warning to an employee include:

  • providing notice of the meeting;
  • being transparent with your issues;
  • setting expectations;
  • providing an opportunity to respond; and
  • setting a further review.