What does a warning mean?

A warning refers to the employer notifying the employee of the employee having in the employer’s opinion neglected or violated the obligations arising from the employment. The purpose of the warning is to tell employees how they have misbehaved in the employer’s opinion and to give employees an opportunity to correct their actions.

Warning and terminating employment

In principle, employees who have neglected or breached the obligations of the employment must not be dismissed until they have, through a warning, been given an opportunity to correct their conduct. In other words, as a rule, employees must not be dismissed prior to issuing a warning. Without a warning procedure, the employment can only be terminated if the employee’s breach is so severe that the employer cannot in fairness be required to continue the employment.

When giving a notice, it is possible to refer to a warning only when the dismissal is caused by a similar reason than what the warning was given for. The law does not directly provide for a specific time with regard to a given warning. There are no legal provisions for the number of warnings, either. As for the duration of the warning, the assessment is made on a case-by-case basis with regard to the gravity of the breach or neglect. In principle, the more severe the neglect or breach is, the longer the warning is in effect. However, with regard to employees, the workplace must follow fair and consistent practices in its warning procedure.

How a warning is given and content of warning

A warning can be given orally or in writing. However, in a dismissal situation, the employer must be able to show that a warning has been given. A warning should contain a reason for the warning, i.e. details of:

  • how the employees have neglected or violated the obligations of the work contract or the employment relationship
  • how the employees are expected to change their conduct
  • what consequences there can be if the negligence or breach is repeated

It is important that the warning clearly specifies what action or neglect is the grounds for the warning so that employees will understand what it is about and that they actually have an opportunity to correct their actions or conduct.

managing work with supervisor

Denying the warning

A warning must always be based on actual events. If an employee is not guilty of any breach or neglect, a warning is insignificant and the employer cannot refer to it as grounds for dismissal. If, according to the employee, the warning is unfounded, the warning should be disputed either orally or in writing. For clarity’s sake, it is necessary to make the denial in a verifiable way.

If you received a warning and do not know what to do, contact the shop steward in your workplace or your trade union. They will support and help you to clarify the situation.