How Long Does a Written Warning Last?

We all dream of working in a harmonious and trouble-free environment however this is regrettably not the real world! Things can and do go wrong. People are people and therefore are prone to mistakes, misjudgement and out and out divisive behaviour.

As business leaders we need to address matters when things go wrong. Ignoring the issue simply results in an escalation over time, so addressing matters at the point that they occur is critical. For minor issues a simple discussion with some corrective direction may suffice however when things are more serious you may need to follow disciplinary procedures.

Written Warnings

Business’ need to ensure that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place for such eventuality. Employees can rely on basic statutory procedures to be followed however it is far better for a business to clearly define their own policies and procedures.

Remember, the disciplinary process is designed to be corrective and not punitive. In other words, it is designed to correct poor performance or bad conduct to prevent the need to terminate an individual’s performance. Of course, sometimes an individual will commit an act so bad that they are ultimately dismissed for gross misconduct however thankfully these scenarios are still rare.

For all other matters a company will need to follow a series of levels of warnings. Starting with a discussion to hopefully correct early signs of poor conduct or performance however if this doesn’t resolve the issue then the individual may move on to be issued a 1st written warning then a final written warning before ultimately being dismissed (procedurally).

How Long Written Warnings Last

The amount of time a warning will stay on file therefore depends on the severity of the action. Typically, a warning may last on file for 6 months. A final written warning may remain on file for 12 months. In extreme cases you may have a warning that stays on file for an indefinite period. The periods of time that the warning stays on file for must either be laid out in the confirmation of disciplinary action letter or clearly laid out in the Companies policies and procedures or in an Ideal world, both!

Bottom Line

In order to safely navigate your way through any disciplinary process it is advisable to seek HR Support. Remember that addressing the issue in good time and seeing the process as being corrective rather than a form of punishment is key to ensuring a fair process.

Warnings may appear harsh however they are there for the good of both the business and the individual in order to attempt to prevent a regrettable termination. Companies need to decide how long a warning will reasonably stay on file on this basis.

View our video for more insight into written warnings


If you need HR support from a company that understands the needs of your business, contact us today. At Harwood HR we can support your business, help you to grow and promote your employees’ talents. Our UK-based team offers a range of HR support services and advice for SME businesses, including outsourced HR support.


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