One of our restaurant workers has become difficult and no longer shows any interest in his job. He has been with us for nearly five years and until recently, was a good worker. Reprimands are just ignored. Must we give him three warnings before we can sack him, and must they be written warnings?
Ignoring mitigating circumstances, one verbal warning, a written warning and a final written warning is an indication of what might be considered fair for this level of poor performance.
The legislation does not specify a particular number of warnings, or how warnings must be delivered.
When ruling on an unfair dismissal claim, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) must take into account not only the reason for the dismissal but whether procedural fairness was applied. Procedural fairness includes issuing adequate warnings proportionate to the seriousness of the wrongdoing.
Note that even if the number and nature of warnings are deemed adequate, the dismissal may still be ruled unfair if other aspects of procedural fairness are not followed (e.g. if the person was not given an opportunity to defend or correct poor performances).
More information about Termination of Employment is available at this link.