In a disciplinary situation do the three warnings need to be for the same thing?

 

Generally speaking, the warnings should be for the same or a similar type of offence. There should be clear evidence that the employee understood what they did wrong, they were given appropriate coaching and support to assist them to improve, and they understood the consequences of repeating the offence.

It is harder to argue that a dismissal is justified if previous warnings were for different offences – especially if the offences were of a minor nature and it’s the cumulative effect that lead to the dismissal. However, this doesn’t automatically mean that a dismissal preceded by warnings for different offences is unjustified – it really depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

The following are all important considerations:

  • Is it reasonable to expect the employee to have taken learnings from one situation to the next? Is there a common theme among the different offences?
  • What is the nature of the latest offence? How serious is the incident?
  • Did the employee understand that the new offence was unacceptable? Refer to the employee’s employment agreement, the farm code of conduct, induction materials and other relevant items.
  • Consider the training, coaching and support provided for the previous offence and throughout the employment relationship. Should this have helped prevent the new situation?
  • Did the employee understand their employment may be in jeopardy if they committed other offences?

Before taking any disciplinary action, you must conduct a full and fair investigation, including considering the employee’s side of the story. Keep in mind that a warning is a serious step in itself and must be an action that a fair and reasonable employer would have taken, given the circumstances. Please seek legal advice about your particular situation and the best course of action.

 

Learn more about disciplinary procedures and investigating misconduct. Remember that you are required to follow a fair process at all times.