Five easy steps to legally issue a written warning

As an employer issuing a written warning to an employee for poor work performance or wrong doing is something you’ll face at least once in your career. It’s not pleasant, but it’s vital to ensure work is carried out efficiently by a lacklustre employee. But it’s not as simple as that. Issuing written warnings incorrectly can be costly and land you at the CCMA. So make sure you follow these five steps to avoid this…


When issuing a written warning you must: Ask for an explanation before you issue a written warning. Put the warning in writing as proof you’ve issued it and given it to the employee. Ask the employee to sign the warning to acknowledge he’s received it. File the written warning in his record. Tell your employee by law he can challenge the written warning at the CCMA or at a bargaining council. When can written warning be issued? According to the SME Toolkit South Africa, ‘Written warnings may be given with or without a disciplinary hearing being held. Employees normally indicate on the letter of warning whether it is a first, second or final written warning, depending on the number of previous warnings given and/or the severity of the alleged offence.’ Keep in mind the period the written warning is valid for. Remember that when the written warning has expired, it’s no longer relevant if the employee commits the same or a similar offence. According to the Labour Bulletin however, it can remain part of the employee’s overall disciplinary record. The Labour Bulletin advises you to watch out for employees who wait for the warning to expire before committing another offence. If this happens repeatedly, it amounts to insubordination and employees can be dismissed for this.

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Author: Simangele Mzizi

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