Verbal and written warnings
As a member of school staff, you may receive a verbal or written warning as an outcome from a disciplinary meeting.
We have written more about the topic of disciplinary meetings.
If you have received a verbal or written warning you might be concerned if it will have an impact on any future references or how long it will stay on your personnel record in school.
You will want to read the disciplinary policy at your school or Trust for specific information in your setting.
In this support article, we look at the differences between verbal, first written and final written warnings.
We also link to examples of disciplinary policies from schools which outline how verbal and written warnings operate from school to school.
Verbal and written warnings: what do teachers need to know?
ACAS explains if the misconduct or performance issue was found to be small and not serious, the employer might just have an informal talk with the employee.
Your workplace might call it a ‘verbal warning’.
It’s a good idea for the employer to still keep a confidential written record of informal or verbal warnings for future reference.
ACAS explains a written warning is a formal warning that the employer can give the employee at the end of the disciplinary procedure.
A first or final written warning should say:
- What the misconduct or performance issue is
- The changes needed, with a timescale
- What could happen if the changes are not made
- What could happen if there is further misconduct or no improvement to performance
- How long the warning will stay in place
- In performance cases, any support or training the employer will provide
First written warning
A first written warning is normally the first step an employer will take when misconduct or poor performance is confirmed.
Final written warning
The employer can give a final written warning if, within a set timeframe, the employee either:
- Repeats or commits another misconduct
- Does not improve performance
In cases of serious misconduct or poor performance, the employer does not have to give a first written warning and can instead go straight to a final written warning.
For example, where the employee’s actions have, or could, cause serious harm.
If an employee does not meet the requirements of their final written warning in the timeframe set, it could lead to dismissal.
The employer should make this clear to the employee.
Disciplinary policies: verbal and written warnings
Butterknowle Primary School in Durham has a disciplinary policy.
On page 13 of the policy it outlines the formal disciplinary sanctions which can be given, these include written warnings and final written warnings.
For written warnings it explains:
“This may be issued if the first offence is serious enough to warrant formal action and will set out the nature of the misconduct and the improvement in behaviour required. It will usually last for a period of twelve months, although this can be extended. A copy of the written warning will be kept of the employee’s personnel file.
The written warning will clearly state the performance problem, where improvements are required and the level of continued professional support, advice and guidance to be provided. In cases of capability (support staff only), the frequency of future reviews, now on a formal basis, will also be outlined at this stage. Depending upon the severity of the situation, this stage may be omitted in cases of both misconduct or capability and it may be justifiable to move directly to a final written warning.”
For final written warnings the policy explains:
“Where there is a failure to improve or change behaviour and previous live warnings have not resulted in sufficient improvement, the employee may be issued with a final written warning. In circumstances where an offence is sufficiently serious to warrant only one written warning, but not serious enough to justify dismissal, a first and final written warning may be issued. It will usually last for a period of eighteen months, although this can be extended.
A copy of the written warning will be kept of the employee’s personnel file. The final written warning will clearly state the performance problem, where improvements are required and the level of continued professional support, advice and guidance to be provided. In cases of capability (support staff only), the frequency of future reviews, now on a formal basis, will also be outlined at this stage.”
Kidbrooke Park Primary School in Greenwich has a disciplinary policy for members of staff. On the topic of verbal warnings it explains:
A verbal warning is an informal warning for cases of minor infringements and constitutes the first step of the disciplinary procedure.
This lets the employee know that their conduct is not acceptable and that if it does not improve they will be subject to the formal disciplinary procedure.
The verbal warning will state:
- Details of the complaint
- The improvement or change in behaviour required and the timescale, if appropriate, allowed for this
- The likely outcome if the improvement is not made
- That there is no right of appeal
The verbal warning is not confirmed to the employee in writing but a record will be kept on their personal file, but it will be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after 6 months’ satisfactory conduct.
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