Disciplinary Policy Basics

Research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) show that average cost-per-hire is over $4,100 for most positions. The SHRM also found that the annual turnover rate is 19 percent and the termination rate is eight percent. Having an effective discipline policy is the best way to minimize hiring costs and reduce turnover rates.

Verbal Warnings

A verbal warning is the standard first step of a disciplinary process. This notifies an employee that a change in behavior or improvement in work performance is needed. These are usually used for minor issues, such as failing to call-in or ignoring rules. Verbal warnings should be given in private during a meeting between the supervisor and employee to discuss the issue. There are legitimate reasons for being late, such as car trouble or sick children, but the issue should still be documented with a corrective action in place.

Written Warnings

Written warnings inform employees that their unchanged work performance issues or inappropriate workplace behaviors are serious and may trigger termination. Employees who reject corrective actions or ignore the supervisor’s instructions from the verbal warning need a written warning to set firm expectations. Before the end of the disciplinary meeting, the employee should be asked to sign indicating that they understand the new performance conditions and the associated consequences. Employees who refuse to sign may be subject to disciplinary measures, such as being sent home for insubordination.

Warnings are an Important HR Tool

When properly and consistently used, warnings are the best tool to identify and prevent potential employee problems. Most organizations use a standard form that includes the details, date and corrective action requested. Consistent warnings for chronic or serious issues will legally protect the company when they terminate an employee for gross misconduct. In this scenario, they may be used to fight the undeserving workers’ compensation claim. Failing to maintain objective documentation creates opportunities for unlawful or discriminatory termination lawsuits.

Human resources professionals can reduce legal liabilities and turnover rates through verbal and written warnings.