A written notice is used to give an employee the chance to improve their conduct in order to avoid dismissal.
Letting go of an employee is not an easy process. You may not fire anyone based on sex, age or ethnicity, for example. Furthermore, it can end up being problematic to fire an employee before giving them a written notice. Parental or sick leave are not valid reasons either.
A written notice for unsatisfactory conduct is used as the step before firing an employee. With this, the employee is given the chance of improving their conduct and/or effort to meet the employer’s expectations. You typically have to justify the notice with a specific episode.
As a basic rule, written notices are used in case of dissatisfaction with an employee’s conduct or effort.
Conduct can relate to disobeying orders, breaching internal guidelines, e.g. regarding non-smoking policies, or misappropriating employee benefits. It can also apply to situations, when an employee behaves inappropriately towards colleagues or management. Employees are usually subject to duty of loyalty, which prohibits them from speaking critically about their superiors. In especially severe cases, it is of course possible to fire someone without notice but this is not something to speculate about.
Effort refers to situations, when an employee lacks the necessary skills or does not reach the required goals - for example sales targets.
There are no formal requirements per se for a written notice, but there are things to keep in mind, in order to avoid a dispute.
First and foremost, it has to be made clear for the employee, what the employer expects and until when the improvement has to be made. The notice has to refer to a concrete instance and name objective reasons. At the same time, the consequences of not obeying the notice have to be clearly described. Typically, that would be a termination.
The written notice is often delivered in conjunction with a discussion, where the reasons are explained in depth, and a confirmation for the receipt of the written notice is signed.
In concordance with the good contract, it has to be phrased clearly and precisely. You have to be able to identify the two parts: employee and workplace. Furthermore, there has to be a concrete description of the problem and the procedure to solve it. Finally, it has to contain a physical or digital signature.
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