W as in Written Warning

What is a written warning?

With a written warning (Abmahnung), the employer draws the employee’s attention to misconduct and informs him/her that he/she disapproves of a certain behavior.  It is intended to warn the employee that he or she may be dismissed if the behavior is being repeated. 

Can I be warned for calling in sick?

A written warning can only be issued for behavior over which the employee has control. It cannot be issued for illness, because the employee cannot influence whether he or she becomes ill. If, however, he or she does not comply with the reporting requirements in the event of illness, this may be behavior that justifies the employer to warn them.

Can I be dismissed without a written warning?

A written warning is required to justify a subsequent termination for behavioral reasons. It is more likely that a termination will be deemed lawful by the labor court if the employer has made it clear to the employee that their behaviour was unacceptable in the past.  The Abmahnung issued however needs to be for comparable behaviour. Nevertheless, there may also be situations in which a termination without prior formal notice is effective because of the severity of the misconduct.


Please note: This is a very general overview on german labor law. If you need help in your particular case, please do not hestitate to contact me or book your appointment. I’m happy to help.

Employer gesturing angrily at an employee in front of a broken window, risking an extraordinary termination