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If you think you can only escalate a disciplinary warning where the employee commits similar acts of misconduct, you may be taking unnecessary steps which could cause delay, inconsistency and possible unfairness. 

Obviously, a disciplinary warning must remain live in order to be escalated. It seems that confusion arises around whether the latest act of misconduct needs to be closely connected to the misconduct that gave rise to the most recent, live warning. That’s not the case. Provided the new issue relates to misconduct (i.e. the employee has chosen to behave in a particular way) any live disciplinary warning could and should be escalated if you establish the employee has behaved inappropriately.

Example – if an employee behaves in a way that amounts to harassment and receives a first written warning, then that same employee shouts at a customer – can you issue a final written warning or do you need to start with a first written warning again?

Answer – you can escalate the live, first written warning to a final written warning as both issues relate to acts of misconduct.

Ensure you check your own disciplinary policy and take advice if you’re unsure, but escalating a warning is a crucial step in avoiding potential problems at a later date. Get in touch if you need our support to refresh your teams on managing a disciplinary process. 


This update is accurate on the date it was published (16 March 2022), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

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