While employers would like to believe that their employees are satisfied and have little cause for discord with their employer or their employment, this is not necessarily correct. Therefore, it is important for employers to take the time to formulate a proper avenue for employees to lodge concerns or complaints. With the advent of a formal grievance system, employers are able to address concerns in an expedient manner thereby reducing the likelihood of a lawsuit.

First, it is important for employees to know that grievances can be brought directly to employers and, if not properly addressed, the complaints can be reviewed by New South Wales Industrial Relations or the Fair Work Ombudsmen’s Act. However, before filing a complaint the employee must be sure to bring the complaint before the proper government office.

Initially, an employer needs to understand why it is important to have a formal grievance policy for their place of business. The most important reason is for employees to know that there is a designated and objective manner in which to bring forth issues that are affecting their ability to work efficiently and comfortably with those around them. It is also important for employees to have an avenue to discuss company policies that that might be causing workplace issues. However, it is equally important for the legal health of your business. A company that finds itself embroiled in a legal battle over employee grievances runs the risk of creating financial and personnel issues that can affect the company’s productivity and profit.

To prevent employees from going to such lengths to seek redress, it is best if employers address and solve such issues in the earliest stage possible. To do this an employer should:

  • Identify the department or persons who will be the initial receiver of such complaints
  • Provide a written complaint form for employees to complete, asking the employee to supply the most pertinent information pertaining to their concern
  • Set a quick time limit for the employee to sit down and initially discuss his/her concern with either the owner of the company or his/her designee.
  • Set a clear time frame for a response to be given to the employee, both verbally and in writing, addressing the possible solution(s) or outcome of their grievance
  • Be sure to add the process of the grievance policy to the businesses employee handbook

Employers should outline the types of grievance the process will entertain, and also indicate that if a particular grievance matter is not listed, the employee should still come forward and express their concerns.

An example of a grievance list includes:

  1. Supervisory issues
  2. Coworker discord
  3. Health and safety issues
  4. Harassment
  5. Drug and/or alcohol abuse on the job

Once a complaint is filed it is imperative for the employer to investigate the claim quickly and efficiently. The investigation should be done in a thorough and expedient manner. The investigation process should include:

  • Interviewing the complainant
  • Provide copies of the complaint to those to the complainant and those who are named therein
  • Confirming the information and details with others who might have been involved
  • Give the accused employee an opportunity to respond to the allegations
  • Prepare a written report of the investigator’s findings
  • Review the written report with the complainant and the accused, separately
  • Identify the decision that has been made by management and the proposed solution to cure the issue
  • Implement the necessary changes to alleviate the issue

It is also important to realize that not all grievances will be settled. In this instance, it is important for the company to have a process by which the decision can be reviewed or appealed by another objective party. If the issue cannot be resolved, employees might seek legal assistance or representation. Should this occur, it will be important for the employer to have carefully documented the entire process and the outcome.

As an employer, it would be ideal if concerns and issues did not arise in the workplace. But this is an unrealistic and unattainable standard for any employer to achieve. However, if an employer takes the time to set up proper channels to handle employee grievances, it is highly likely employment issues can be handled quickly and efficiently, and with solutions that will appease everyone involved.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.