Some managers get confused by what exactly is a ‘verbal warning’. A lot will depend on whether the Organisation’s Discipline (and Capability) policy includes a formal ‘verbal warning’ stage or not, however it should be noted that a ‘formal’ verbal warning stage was removed from the ACAS code of practice some years ago.

The term ‘verbal warning’ should not be used for a member of staff as a result of an informal meeting. To do so can lead to confusion (if the company policy does include a ‘verbal warning’ stage there may be far worse consequences such as failure to follow the correct formal process and / or the failure to provide formal representation).

Where, as a result of an informal meeting, a member of staff is to be ‘informally’ warned that their performance or conduct needs to be improved this should simply be stated in those terms i.e. for example ‘your performance is not at an acceptable level and must improve’ as opposed to ‘you have been given a verbal warning with regards to the level of your performance which must improve’. The main aspects of any such informal meetings should always be documented and copied to the member of staff for clarity and future reference.

If you would like to discuss any aspect this HR article in more detail, please contact our HR consultants at