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Learn more about Employee Warning Letter in Singapore

Employee warning letter is an important element of the human resource (HR) team’s process, and they may use this document to notify team members about their performance. An HR professional may use a warning letter when a team member’s behaviour or performance doesn’t meet the manager’s standards and expectations. Knowing how to compose such a letter can help you take the appropriate disciplinary action and ensure it’s effective. In this article, we describe how to write an employee warning letter, provide you with helpful tips and lastly include a template and two examples for you to use.

Table of contents

How to write an employee warning letter?

The manager or an HR professional may send an employee warning letter when a team member has poor performance. They usually deliver warning letters after the team member ignores their first verbal warning, but this can also depend on the specific company’s policy. The primary goal of a warning letter is to get the team member in question to quickly change their conduct. This is a general overview of how to write an employee warning letter:

1. Set up a meeting

Before sending your employee warning letter, it’s important to contact the team member and set up a meeting with them where you can discuss the warning. Do this before they receive the employee warning letter so they’re not caught by surprise. Contact the professional by email or by written request to confirm the necessary details, such as the location. Follow up with a phone call to make sure they understand how serious the situation is. Conduct the meeting in a professional setting, such as your office.

2. Use the company's letterhead

When composing your employee warning letter, make sure it follows a formal structure and uses the company’s letterhead. This can give your employee warning letter credibility as an official document. These are the basic details you can cover:

➤ Date and subject
➤ Team member's name
➤ Details of the violation
➤ Date of previous warnings, if any exist
➤ Future disciplinary actions the company may take
➤ Your signature
➤ Team member's acknowledgement and signature

3. Give a reason for the warning

Begin your employee warning letter with a formal greeting. Then, you can give a reason for why the individual’s behaviour deserves a warning. State the facts concerning which of their actions are against the company’s policies. This is important because you can use the employee warning letter as an official document. It’s necessary to have a written record of the infractions in case of termination.

4. List the consequences

Next, you can list the consequences that may follow if the professional fails to correct their behaviour. It’s important to give this information so the recipient understands the severity of the situation. This prevents them from committing the same mistakes in the future and pushes them to immediately modify their actions. You can list the disciplinary actions in order of escalation.

5. Include the team member's acknowledgement and the signatures

Include your signature at the end of the employee warning letter. Afterwards, it’s recommended that you include a segment containing the recipient’s acknowledgement of their infractions and their willingness to improve their behaviour. This helps keep them accountable for their actions. Their signature and the date can follow this acknowledgement.

Tips for writing a good employee warning letter

You can follow these tips when writing an employee warning letter:
Be clear. Be as clear as possible in your letter about what’s wrong and what you expect from the team member to avoid any misunderstanding or miscommunication.
Print two copies. Once the letter is complete, make sure to print two copies of it. One goes into the company’s official files and the other goes to the team member.
Take note of the individual’s thoughts. During your meeting, you can write down the recipient’s thoughts on the company’s printed letter.
Deliver the letter as soon as possible. Once the individual’s behaviour warrants a written warning, give it as soon as possible.
Keep it private. Refrain from making the individual’s situation known to their coworkers. Throughout the process, make sure it stays private to maintain a professional and positive work environment.
Be objective. Be objective and firm in your letter by only writing the facts.
Proofread. The letter is an official, formal document that you can use in the future if necessary. To establish your professionalism, it’s crucial that you proofread before sending it.
Include positive encouragement. After listing the consequences, it’s helpful to include a positive statement underlining the company’s determination to improve the situation. This can be an important motivational tool.

Why is an employee warning letter important?

Employee warning letters are a formal element of the disciplinary process carried out by the human resources department. HR often uses this communication mechanism when officially reprimanding employees. They usually begin by giving the employee a verbal warning. If there’s no improvement in performance, they may send a formal warning letter.
Disciplinary letters are important because they help the HR department take control of the situation in an attempt to improve the team member’s conduct. Because the letter is official, the HR team can refer back to it in the event of termination or if the employee repeats their problematic behaviour in the future. Furthermore, it allows the person receiving the reprimand to understand the severity of the situation and change their actions accordingly. There are several reasons for sending such an employee warning letter, including:

➤ Poor performance
➤ Unprofessional behaviour
➤ Misconduct
➤ Not responding to emails
➤ Negligence
➤ Insubordination
➤ Absenteeism

What are the different types of warning letters?

There is no magic number of how many warnings an employee must receive before their employment can be terminated. A common misconception is that three warnings is the upper limit before termination procedures can be followed, however, there is no legislative requirement which reflects this. What employers do need to be mindful of is the risk of unfair dismissal claims being made by employees who feel that they were not sufficiently warned about their underperformance and received no opportunity to improve or respond before being terminated.
Some key points to note:
Generally speaking, warnings will not remain “alive” forever. Depending on the severity of conduct which triggered the warning being given, they will typically lose relevance once an employee has demonstrated improvement for a consistent amount of time. A good guide is six months’ before expiration. This will of course depend on severity of the triggering conduct and may be more or less time.
Warnings should always be documented. Even where a verbal warning is a verbal, it is best to make a note of this having taken place. This will help prove reasonableness if a subsequent termination decision is challenged and relates to an employee being afforded procedural fairness.
Warning’s needs to detail the type of underperformance with specificity and identify a timeframe for expected improvement. At the expiration of this time period the employees performance should be reviewed and further discipline be considered where appropriate. In addition to this, employees should also be advised of possible outcomes if their performance does not improve, e.g. further disciplinary action or potential termination.
Employees should sign a receipt or acknowledgment of receiving a warning; however, it is generally inconsequential if an employee refuses to do so. Where an employee does refuse, they should still be issued with a copy and a record be kept on their HR file / personnel file.
The process for issuing warnings should be detailed in a company’s policy and procedure documents and/or in an employee’s contract of employment or other industrial instrument.

Verbal warnings or employee warning letter?

Verbal warnings are appropriate when an employee first starts showing signs of underperformance, or where the conduct is such that it does not warrant a formal performance management process, but still requires addressing. The employee’s direct supervisor should issue the verbal warning and is best accompanied by an informal performance management process. The aim is for performance improvement, so an informal performance management process allows a supervisor to inform their subordinate of the performance gap, and ways to correct it. Further counselling, training or access to the employers Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may also be necessary depending on the nature of the underperformance and the cause.
Although oral in nature, verbal warnings should still be documented as being issued. This will assist employers if an employee makes any claims for unfair treatment in the future.

First written warning for an employee

A first written warning is appropriate in a number of instances. These include; where a previous verbal warning has been issued for a minor problem and the employee has not improved their performance, or where an employee has not previously been warned but their behaviour / underperformance is such that a written warning is deemed necessary.
Ideally a written warning will be issued in conjunction with a formal performance management process being followed. This will give the employee an opportunity to respond to the underperformance issues and work with their manager to jointly seek a solution to the problem.
The written warning should contain the following details:

➤ What the underperformance / misconduct issue is and the corrective action required
➤ What action will be taken if the employee does not improve their behaviour
➤ Detail previous warning and date of issue
➤ Details and signatures of those present at the formal performance management meeting
➤ Dates for performance to be re-evaluated
➤ A performance Improvement Plan may also be issued with the first written warning

What is the final written warning?

The number of warnings issued before an employee can be dismissed will depend on the severity of the underperformance, behaviour or misconduct complained of and whether any improvement has been noticed. In some circumstances a final written warning may be the first warning which is issued to an employee if the circumstances are serious enough. Conversely, employers may choose to issue a final written warning to an employee instead of dismissing them where they have shown considerable improvement but still fall short of the desired performance standard. It is inadvisable to issue repeated final warnings, however the situation needs to assessed on the facts.

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