There are actually many forms of warnings and disciplinary procedures in the
workplace, so remember when reading this article that you will
always need to refer to the policies at your workplace and your
individual situation. It can be hard to tell when a warning is just
that or a symptom of something more, or even if you have actually
been officially warned.
A warning doesn't have to be in writing
In fact, the first stage in many disciplinary procedures is an
"informal chat" with your supervisor or manager. This is most
often the case with so-called 'minor' things, such as small
mistakes, a slip in performance, or unexplained lateness. It may
well be noted for later and so should definitely not be ignored,
especially if it happens more than once.
A warning should never be a surprise
Whether you've had the "informal chat" or skipped straight to a
more serious step, you should always have been given a fair chance
to review the evidence against you and present your own version of
events during an investigation. The reasons for the warning
and any conditions attached to it should be clearly explained to
you and a copy of the warning given to you (when it is a written
You also have the right to have your side of the story recorded
in your file, and to have a trusted friend, co-worker, Union
delegate or legal representative with you in any proceedings
including meetings with the supervisor or manager, even during the
investigation or informal stages. You shouldn't feel
pressured to sign or acknowledge the warning, especially if you
feel it is unfair.
All warnings will be recorded on your file
They will be taken into account in future issues, and sometimes
contribute to a 'final' warning, which signifies a kind of 'last
chance'. Warnings may also come with conditions such as a
monitoring period or performance management.
If you disagree with a warning you can contest it
You are entitled to seek legal advice or initiate a dispute
about any warnings if you think they are incorrect or unfair.
You can follow the dispute resolution procedure at your workplace
and/or speak to a lawyer about your options. A lawyer can
help you with internal dispute resolution as well as actions before
Fair Work Australia or the Equal Opportunity Commission, and will
be able to point you in the best direction for your
For example, if you have many warnings for things other people
get away with, you might have a claim for discrimination or adverse
action. It is always advisable to formulate a written
response to the warning and send it to the employer. This may
become your future defence in disciplinary proceedings or to
further warnings in the workplace which may eventually lead to
Unfortunately, warnings are not "one-size-fits-"all. If
you are unsure in any way about where you stand, it is best to seek
legal advice. Today's blog writer, Andersons Senior Associate, Sorna
Nachiappan is a highly experienced Industrial and Employment
Law solicitor in the Andersons IR Department. Feel free to get
in touch for advice or assistance.
Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South
Australia. It relates to Australian Federal legislation.