Legal Guide

Understanding of How to Reply to a Show Cause Letter at Work?

by Bhavya Choudhary · 4 min read

show cause notice reply

What is a show cause notice?

A show cause notice is intended to provide an employee the chance to explain (show cause) why they should not be subjected to disciplinary action at work. It is not a legal notice. A show cause notice from an employer must include: 

  • the possibility of disciplinary action (i.e., dismissal) if the employee does not provide with show cause reply in writing
  • adequate details of the alleged underperformance, misconduct, or other issues that have prompted the potential disciplinary action; and
  • any relevant employment history or background (e.g., past warnings) that the employer may consider when determining the proper course of action; and,
  • any additional restrictions (such as confidentiality) that may apply to the procedure, as well as how and when the employee is required to react.

A show cause notice

  • WHAT: An employer issues a show cause notice to an employee, requesting the employee to explain why they should not face disciplinary action for a misbehavior claim or allegations.
  • WHEN: When an employee is embroiled in a workplace conflict, has engaged in wrongdoing, or has demonstrated slack performance.
  • WHY: The purpose of a show cause notice is to provide the employee an opportunity to explain himself before the Company decides on the next step in resolving the situation.
  • WHERE: The show cause notice must be handed to the affected employee at his or her place of employment and during his or her working hours.
  • HOW: The show cause notice must include a clear accusation of the dispute/misconduct/performance issue, including dates, times, and locations, as well as the legal provision/contractual duty that the employee has violated.

Because every situation is circumstantially distinct, there is no uniform blueprint for establishing causation, as previously stated. Do not become agitated if you receive a show cause notice from your job. Do not react as if it is a legal notice. Before you start writing your show cause notice reply, take a moment to sit down and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Was the issue of the show cause notice justified given the circumstances?
  2. Is it true that it was issued in good faith?
  3. Were the accusations made against you in the notice specific or general?
  4. Do you have a good enough understanding of the allegations to respond coherently? 
  5. Was the show cause notice based on natural justice principles?

Defend yourself professionally

A domestic investigation is normally preceded by a show cause notice. It is sometimes utilized as a stand-alone technique of investigation. In either case, the Employment Act of 1955’s requirement of “due investigation” must be satisfied.

If you are supposed to write a show cause notice reply, you should respond professionally to defend yourself and provide the sender with your side of the story. A show cause notice reply is not a form of retaliation for wrongdoing or poor performance.

Because a show cause notice is not always given for legitimate reasons, you should ask yourself the five points above (or any other important ones that come to mind). If:

  • the charges are vague, and/or 
  • the charges are for misconduct that you did not commit; 
  • the charges are for performance issues that have already been discussed with your superior, and you are already in the early stages of an improvement plan; and/or 
  • the charges appear to have been purposefully designed to get you into trouble, and/or 
  • the time frame is too short for you to compose a proper response, and/or the contents were not adequately explained to you, and/or if you believe the show cause notice was improperly sent to you, you should contact a lawyer, a Labour/Industrial Relations official, or your Union representative before responding. 

You must ensure that your response does not contain any loopholes that your employer might exploit to further punish you. Malicious show cause notices are sent as entrapment to elicit information that will be used to support your employer’s next line of action against you, which is generally dismissal. 

Do reply

However, do not refrain from responding to a show cause notice reply since you must express your dissatisfaction with the letter’s contents or how it was sent to you. If you don’t respond, your boss will presume you don’t have anything to say in defense of yourself and will do whatever they want, and you will be perceived as agreeing. As a matter of right, you should revert by sending a show cause notice reply & challenge the letter.

If, on the other hand, the show cause notice was properly issued and you agree with the claims leveled against you, you might respond as follows:

  1. The show cause notice reply must be crisp. Make sure your spelling and sentence structure are correct.
  2. Own up to your error. If there are any reasons why you committed those errors, you can go ahead & explain them in the show cause notice reply but do not become defensive; simply express them as facts.
  3. Don’t apologize in the show cause notice reply
  4. Avoid phrases like “The Company may dismiss me if I repeat this error in the future.” Saying things like that gives the impression that you don’t trust yourself to progress, or that you aren’t serious about improving at all.
  5. Insert a mitigating plea in your show cause notice reply and beg management for mercy in punishment if this is your first transgression or if your performance has fallen for the first time.
  6. Maintain the confidentiality of the show cause notice issued to you and your show cause notice reply. Do not tell everyone in the office about them or post about them on social media. It leads to a breach of confidentiality regulations. 


Show cause notice reply must be drafted very wisely. It is always better to take legal advice while sending out show cause notice reply. The expert advice of a lawyer must be taken in this regard. It makes you aware of your rights and what actions can you take against the employer if anything happens in the future.

If you wish to reply to a show cause notice after consulting an expert lawyer, tap on the link below.

Bhavya Choudhary

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Bhavya Choudhary

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