manager writing an employee report on paper

How To Use An Employee Written Warning Form (And A Free Template!)

Whether you like it or not, discipline is a necessary part of every manager’s job. There are going to be conflicts, and it’s your responsibility to resolve those issues and provide disciplinary action. Whether it’s a no-call, no-show, an argument between employees, a clash between a customer and an employee, or some other violation of your company handbook, you need to:

  1. Resolve the issue.
  2. Explain the infraction to the employee(s).
  3. Document the incident.
  4. Ensure the employee understands what he did wrong.
  5. File the infraction for future reference.

That may sound like a lot, but a single piece of paper—the employee written warning form—can make that process much simpler. In this article, the management experts at Sling show you why your business needs an employee written warning template. Along the way, we’ll answer such questions as:

  1. What is an employee written warning?
  2. Why do you need an employee written warning form?
  3. What information should you include on your employee written warning form?
  4. How do you use the employee written warning form?

We’ve also provided a free employee written warning template at the end of this article. We’ll give you step-by-step instructions for filling out this vital piece of business paperwork. After that, you can use our template as-is or create your own template for future use.

What Is An Employee Written Warning?

pedestrian do not cross sign

As the name implies, the purpose of an employee written warning is to inform a team member that she has broken a rule, violated a policy, or failed to abide by an expectation established by the company. Keep in mind that a written warning form is not designed for discipline. That’s what a disciplinary action form is for. Rather, the written warning is issued in order to:

  1. Help the employee see where a mistake was made.
  2. Prevent that mistake from being made again.
  3. Eliminate the need for disciplinary action.

The distinction between a written warning and disciplinary action depends on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the infraction, the history of the employee, and the employee’s overall behavior.

For example, if an employee fails to report for their shift, doesn’t let you know, and doesn’t find a substitute, you may issue a written warning without penalizing the employee. If it happens again, you would likely issue a second written warning AND a disciplinary action form to record the punishment for that behavior. It all depends on the situation and what has come before it.

Why Do You Need An Employee Written Warning Form?

hand writing an employee warning form

Many managers wonder, “Why can’t I just verbally warn an employee and skip all the paperwork?” You certainly can, but ask yourself this: Will you remember an argument between two employees that occurred a month ago? A year ago? Two years ago?

Unless you have an eidetic memory, the odds are slim to none that you’ll recall all the details of past issues. That can lead to problems down the road and make for even more paperwork (and headaches). Filling out an employee written warning takes 15 minutes (at the most), but it can save you hours of hassle should the infraction occur again.

Another reason you need to use an employee written warning form is to protect yourself—and the business—should legal proceedings become necessary. Having a written record of what happened (not just the warning, but the infraction itself), helps to cover your back in case upper management asks questions or the employee protests the discipline. Written warning forms can also be used in a court of law to exonerate you and the business of wrongdoing should a dispute go that far.

Now that we’ve highlighted the necessity of using an employee written warning form, let’s zoom in on the form itself and see what information you should include.

What Information Should You Include On Your Employee Written Warning Form?

manager taking notes on an employee with a notepad and laptop

Every employee written warning form should include the following information:

  1. Employee’s name
  2. Nature of the infraction
  3. Specific rule broken (as outlined in your employee handbook)
  4. Manager’s description of the events
  5. Employee’s description of the events
  6. Warning severity (e.g., first warning, second warning, final warning)
  7. Explanation of the warning form
  8. Signature of the employee, employer, and witness

This is just the basic “who, what, where, and when” information necessary for accurate record keeping. You can add other sections as you see fit or as needed by your business.

How Do You Use The Employee Written Warning Form?

This section will focus on the step-by-step process for filling out the employee written warning form included at the end of this article. As you go through the steps, remember to keep your language professional. Informal language can be used against you in a court of law.

It’s also vital that you fill in ALL the blanks. Even if a part of the form doesn’t apply, you should mark it with an “N/A” (not applicable) or a dash so that someone reading the information in the future doesn’t think you were negligent. That can also lead to problems should legal proceedings become necessary.

Our form includes space for the signature of a witness who will be present during the issuance of this warning. You can choose to include a witness or not. Even though the witness does not do anything until the very end, he or she should be present from the start.

manager using a computer to write up an employee

Instructions For Filling Out An Employee Written Warning

  1. Fill in the employee’s name.
  2. In a few words, describe the misconduct.
  3. Where applicable, list the specific rule broken in the employee handbook.
  4. Describe the misconduct in as much detail as possible. Be sure to include the date of the infraction if you are not issuing the form on that day.
  5. Allow the employee to describe the event from his point of view.
  6. Mark the level of warning that this form represents (e.g., written, serious, or final).
  7. Fill in the date this form was issued and the month it will expire (e.g., 6, 8, or 12 months from the date of issue).
  8. Review the information regarding the use of the form so the employee understands his rights.
  9. Have the employee sign and date on the appropriate lines.
  10. Sign and date the form yourself.
  11. Have the witness sign and date the form.

When all the signatures are in place and the form is complete, provide a copy to the employee for his records. Place the original in the employee’s permanent file.

Employee Written Warning Template

We have included an employee written warning template based on the information and instructions in this article. We give you permission to use it as-is, change some or all, or use it as inspiration to produce your own employee written warning form. Sling is here to help make your work life easier, so whatever you’ve got to do is fine with us.

For more guidance and best practices for busy managers—and to see how the free Sling app can streamline your scheduling process—visit today.

Employee Written Warning

EMPLOYEE NAME:  ________________________________________

NATURE OF MISCONDUCT:  ______________________________________

Employee is hereby accused of violating employer’s code of conduct as outlined in the employee handbook. Specifically, rule number _______ under the heading ______. For further details, please review the section below.

Manager’s description of misconduct:




Employee’s description of misconduct:




In adherence to our disciplinary procedure, we are issuing this written warning to inform the employee that he/she has committed the misconduct described above. This warning is regarded as a (check one):

Written Warning

Valid for 6 months (from _________________ to _________________)

Serious Written Warning

Valid for 8 months (from _________________ to _________________)

Final Written Warning

Valid for 12 months (from _________________ to _________________)

Should employee engage in further misconduct, this warning will be used to determine a more serious penalty (e.g., a final warning or termination). This written warning will be placed in the employee’s file and will remain valid for the time period indicated on page 1.

After that time, the written warning will be removed from the employee’s record but will remain in their personal file for future reference. This written warning is considered part of your disciplinary record and will be considered should any future disciplinary action be necessary.

The details of this written warning have been explained to the employee and he/she acknowledges the he/she understands.







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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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