Legal advice

Getting a warning at work: Here are the rules

You may receive a warning if your employer is not satisfied with your work performance. Here you can read more about what is means to get a warning and how you should respond.

A warning is a notice from your employer that a specific behaviour is not acceptable. A warning should always be as specific as possible so you know how to act on it. If you do not agree with the content of the warning, you must contact IDA.

When can I get a warning?

You can receive a warning at work if your employer wants to make you aware that your work performance or behaviour is not satisfactory. If you do not heed the warning, there may be consequences, and you may ultimately be dismissed. 

A warning can be both oral and written, but if your employer later wants to use it as a reason for termination, you must receive it in writing. 

If you disagree with the warning, you should always contact IDA for advice. 

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What is the difference between a reprimand and a warning?

In Denmark, we distinguish between a reprimand (påtale) and a warning (advarsel). A reprimand is a rebuke from your employer. You can get it either verbally or in writing, but it has no employment law consequences.  

A warning is more serious, as it can, for example, lead to a termination or expulsion from your workplace. 

As a rule, it should be clear from the document you receive from your employer whether it is a reprimand or a warning. If you are in doubt, you can always contact IDA.

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What are the requirements for a warning?

A warning must accurately describe the behaviour that your employer expects you to improve. In addition, it must describe the consequences if you do not comply with the warning, for example that you will be dismissed or expulsed.   

You can get a warning for many things, but warnings are often given because an employer has noticed: 

  • That you do not cooperate with your colleagues 
  • That you are late 
  • That you do not comply with the employer's guidelines 
  • That you do not perform your tasks satisfactorily 

If the warning only consists of a vague wording that your efforts or behaviour is unsatisfactory, it will weaken the meaning of the warning in connection with a later dismissal, because you have no way of knowing what is expected of you.  

A warning must therefore be specific, so that you have the opportunity to change your behaviour. A warning should therefore contain:

  • A description of what you need to do differently.
  • A description of how the employer can help you comply with it, for example by giving you the skills to carry out the tasks.
  • A timeframe for when the unwanted behaviour must be corrected. Normally, warnings do not extend beyond 1 year.
  • A description of how you evaluate your efforts after the warning.

How should I deal with a warning?

If you agree with the content of the warning, you must of course try to comply with it.

You can continuously note when you follow the instructions in the warning and be proactive yourself and talk to your manager about whether you are following the instructions satisfactorily.  

If, on the other hand, you disagree with the warning, you must contact your trade union representative or IDA for advice on how to handle the situation. 

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Do I have the right to be consulted if I receive a warning?

If you are a public sector employee, you have the right to be consulted if you receive a warning. This means that you must be given the opportunity to express yourself in writing about the content of the warning. You are encouraged to contact IDA before writing a consultation response.  

Your warning must be placed in your personnel file, and if you, as a public employee, have made a written statement in relation to the warning, your comments must be placed in your personnel file.