Workplace Grievance Policy

Overview

[The Company] recognises that unfortunately issues may arise in the workplace from time to time, which may need to be addressed and resolved with the assistance of others, with the aim of developing and maintaining a harmonious working environment. With this aim in mind, the purpose of this policy is to have workplace issues (pursued as employee grievances) handled and resolved in a prompt, fair and effective manner.

Scope

This policy applies to all employees of [the Company].

[The Company] expects that grievances sought to be addressed and resolved under this policy will relate to a workplace issue(s) about which the employee feels genuinely aggrieved.

What is a ‘grievance’?

For the purposes of this policy, a ‘grievance’ means any type of issue (including problem, concern or incident) about a work related activity or matter raised by an employee in respect of which the employee genuinely believes that they have been subject to unreasonable, unfair or otherwise inappropriate treatment, action or conduct. For example, a grievance may relate to:

  • interpersonal conflicts between work colleagues;
  • work allocation;
  • the work environment;
  • occupational health, safety and welfare in the workplace;
  • supervision and development;
  • harassment;
  • workplace bullying;
  • inappropriate workplace behaviour; or

  • discrimination.

Dealing with a grievance

Any employee who has a grievance should not ignore it.

Ignoring it might be interpreted by any other person(s) involved as consent or acceptance that the offending conduct is acceptable or can continue.

Ignoring the matter may also result in a breach of [the Company’s] or employee’s legal duties (eg under the harmonised Work Health and Safety laws, there is an obligation on workers to take reasonable care of their own health and safety).

In some cases, if the subject matter of the grievance is not addressed, it may result in psychological or physical injury or otherwise adversely affect the employee’s wellbeing.

Accordingly, any employee who has a grievance is encouraged (or required if it relates to a serious issue) to raise it and have it resolved in accordance with the terms of this policy.

If an employee is experiencing any stress or worry in relation to the subject matter of the grievance, they are also encouraged to contact [the Company] Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”) provider for confidential assistance and counselling. [Delete this paragraph if an EAP service is not offered to employees] [Insert EAP contact details if this service is provided]

Under no circumstances should employees respond to inappropriate behaviour with other inappropriate behaviour.

Grievance resolution procedure

There are two options in resolving a grievance:

  • self-management; and
  • making a complaint.

These options are not mutually exclusive, and hence, it may be that a grievance is ultimately resolved by recourse to both options (undertaken consecutively commencing with option 1). More information about these options is set out below.

Nothing in this policy prevents [the Company] intervening and taking reasonable action in addressing a workplace issue, whether or not it is pursued as a grievance under this policy.

Option 1: Self-management

What:

Where an employee is aggrieved by an issue, they are encouraged, at first instance, to raise the issue directly with the person(s) involved as soon as possible with the aim of resolving the issue privately and confidentially, provided the employee feels comfortable in doing so. Refer to the “when” section for guidance as to circumstances when [the Company] considers it appropriate for an employee to undertake self-management.

Self-management can be an effective early intervention strategy in appropriate cases. It can be beneficial in minimising the potential for minor issues to escalate and maintaining work relationships. Accordingly, [the Company] encourages self-management either personally or with the assistance of others, as the first step to resolve an issue.

When:

Self-management is suitable:

  • for minor, non-complex and one-off issues;
  • if the aggrieved employee feels comfortable in addressing the issues directly with other person(s) involved (personally or with the assistance of others);
  • the issue is readily able to be resolved promptly and effectively without requiring the intervention of the employer’s representative (eg supervisor, manager or human resource professional).

How:

Typically, self-management may take the form of the aggrieved employee approaching the other person involved in a private setting and informing that person in a calm and professional manner that the person’s behaviour or action is unfair, unwelcome or unacceptable and seek agreement from that person that the offending behaviour or action will cease or not be repeated. Agreement should be obtained to keep the matter confidential subject to having to disclose the matter to appropriate personnel of [the Company] should the matter need to be escalated (ie if no resolution is obtained from self-management) or otherwise if the employees involved would be obligated to disclose the issue having regard to its subject matter.

If the employee does not feel comfortable in approaching the offending person(s) on their own, they can seek the assistance of following person(s) to raise the issue:

  •  aggrieved employee’s supervisor or manager;
  • the other employee’s supervisor or manager; or
  • [insert designated person; eg Human Resources Coordinator] of [the Company].

Any of the designated persons requested to assist the aggrieved employee should do so unless they have a reasonable basis not to (eg conflict of interest), and when assisting must use a confidential and non-confrontational approach when discussing the issue and seeking to have it resolved.

If the issue does not resolve through self-management,  the aggrieved employee may escalate the grievance by making a complaint in accordance with this policy (ie pursue option 2).

Option 2: Making a complaint

A complaint is made by filling out the [Complaint Form] and forwarding it to [insert designated person(s)].

Following which, [insert designated person(s)] will assess the complaint and determine in their discretion whether an Informal Response or Formal Response is warranted in order to resolve the complaint. However, in determining the appropriate response, [insert designated person(s)] should take into account whether the complainant seeks an Informal Response or Formal Response as well as the suitability criteria (see “when” section for each type of response below).

The employee who has made the complaint is a complainant and the person(s) in respect of which the complaint is about is the respondent(s).

Informal Response

What:

An Informal Response will require the intervention of a supervisor, manager or [insert any other designated person] to resolve the issue(s) raised in the complaint.

It may involve some rudimentary issue analysis and fact gathering (eg by the supervisor/manager informally but confidentially speaking to the offending person to ascertain their side of the story) but would not:

require any (internal or external) investigation (ie an investigation typically conducted in accordance with terms of reference, by an independent and qualified investigator, with formal interviews of the aggrieved employee, the person(s) who the complaint is about, and witnesses etc), or

otherwise a determination of whether alleged conduct or action has occurred, and if so whether there has been any breach of policies, codes, or terms and conditions of employment.

That is, the informal resolution process focuses on finding a satisfactory solution to the issue rather than establishing wrongdoing.

Further, given the approach, the complaint is unlikely to involve a serious issue or lead to significant disciplinary action being taken against any person(s) involved.

The person designated to manage the Informal Response (see further “how” section below) will have the discretion to determine, implement and manage the particular approach to, and the outcomes in, resolving the issue raised in the complaint.

The complainant and respondent(s) are required to cooperate in the management and implementation of, as well as adhere to, reasonable action implemented in accordance with the Informal Response.

The person designated to manage the Informal Response can at any stage of the Informal Response process determine that the complaint should be subject to a Formal Response if that person considers it is appropriate to do so.

When:

An Informal Response is suitable:

  • for minor to moderately serious issue(s);
  • for non-complex factual or legal issue(s);
  • in respect of conduct or action that is not considered (upon initial assessment) as entrenched or systemic in nature;
  • where the aggrieved employee does not feel comfortable in undertaking self-management or it is otherwise determined that self-management would not be appropriate in light of the issue(s) raised in the complaint;
  • when no investigation would be required;
  • when no allegation of systematic bullying, unlawful discrimination or failure to comply with health and safety standards are involved;
  • when the aggrieved employee seeks an Informal Response (and [the Company]) considers that an Informal Response is warranted);
  • it is unlikely that any significant disciplinary action will be taken against any person(s) involved;

How:

An Informal Response may be managed by :

  • the complainant’s supervisor or manager;
  • the other person’s supervisor or manager; or
  • [Insert designated person; eg Human Resources Coordinator] of [the Company].

Once aware of the issue, the person designated to manage the Informal Response can then take appropriate action to address it including as a (likely) next step some issue analysis and fact gathering.

Means of resolving the complaint may include organising training for a person or group, a conciliation or three-way meeting, or a manager counselling the respondent or arranging for counselling session to be conducted by someone else. Guidance as to possible outcomes can be found in section 7 below (although not all will be appropriate for an Informal Response).

The complainant and respondent(s) are required to cooperate in the management and implementation of, as well as adhere to, reasonable action implemented in accordance with the Informal Response.

Formal Response

What:

A Formal Response is appropriate for a serious issue. The complaint may result in an investigation (internal or external, formal or informal) of the issue raised in the complaint, and as such, this approach may involve possible findings of wrongdoing (and consequently disciplinary action), as well as implementation of appropriate outcomes in resolving the complaint.

The Formal Response process will require the complainant specifying details of the conduct or conditions complained of and the outcome sought.

When:

A Formal Response is suitable:

  • for a serious issue(s) or allegation(s) (eg misconduct, corrupt conduct, unlawful discrimination or harassment, bullying etc);
  • for complex factual or legal issue(s);
  • where systemic or entrenched issues are involved;
  • when an investigation (whether that be undertake internally by an appropriately qualified member of staff or by an external entity eg law firm) is a warranted
  • if some form of Informal Response was undertaken and that response failed to satisfactorily resolve the complaint;
  • when the complainant seeks a Formal Response (and [the Company] considers that a Formal Response is warranted).

How:

If not indicated in the complaint form, the complainant should set out in writing:

  • who the complaint is about;
  • what the issues complained about are;
  • details of any information or evidence that support the complaint; and
  • what the employee would like done about the situation.

Having considered that a Formal Response is warranted, [the Company] will determine the appropriate course of action on a case by case basis. This may involve an investigation into the issues complained about.

Where an investigation is to be conducted, [the Company] will endeavour to have the investigation conducted thoroughly, impartially and confidentially. An investigation is likely to involve interviews with the complainant, the person or group complained about and any witnesses to the alleged incident or conduct. It is also likely to involve the collation and review of any relevant documents and/or other evidence.

Once completed, both the complainant and the person or people complained about will be informed about the outcome of the investigation, although the investigation report will not be disclosed, nor will any disciplinary action that may be taken against the respondent or other person(s) involved.

A range of possible outcomes may be implemented. Guidance as to possible outcomes can be found in section 7 below (although not all will be appropriate for a Formal Response).

[The Company] will aim to provide both the complainant and the person or persons complained about with sufficient support throughout the complaint resolution process. It will also endeavour to keep them informed of progress and to resolve the matter in a timely manner.

Employees may seek external advice regarding the matter at any point during the complaint resolution process, at the employees’ expense.

Review

If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of a complaint (other than in respect of any disciplinary action that may or may not have be taken against the respondent or other person(s) involved), they may seek a review of this matter by contacting [insert designated person].

[insert designated person] will determine in its discretion the manner and nature of the review to be undertaken, and inform the complainant (and if appropriate, the respondent) of the outcome of the review undertaken.

Possible outcomes

Without limiting the outcomes that may be implemented in any case, by way of guidance, potential outcomes in respect of the complaint process include:

  • an apology for any harm or offense caused;
  • an agreement that inappropriate behaviour will stop or change;
  • education or training for a person or group to prevent reoccurrence of the behaviour;
  • an counselling or ‘quiet one-to-one chat’ by a manager;
  • changed work practices or procedures;
  • introduction of new Company policies or a change in policies;
  • reinstating a benefit that was denied; and/or
  • disciplinary action including a warning, transfer or demotion, or termination of employment or of a contract.

Not all the possible outcomes listed above will be appropriate for each response.

Support person

The complainant and respondent to a complaint are entitled to have a support person present to support them during the grievance resolution process (whether that be in the context of an informal or formal response process) if they wish.

If  the complainant or respondent wishes to have a support person who is an external party, the person must first seek the approval of the designated person managing the grievance process. The person designated to manage the response will only object where it is considered unreasonable or unfair to have that person act in that capacity.

The role of the support person (whether that be another employee or external party) will be to attend meetings and interviews to provide support only. They are not permitted to represent or advocate on the party’s behalf or otherwise play an active role in the determination of the complaint.

Confidentiality

[The Company] will endeavour to maintain confidentiality in relation to complaints received under this Policy as far as reasonably possible. However, the person or people complained about have the right to be informed of the precise nature of the allegation(s) being made about them to enable them to respond to those allegations in the course of an investigation.

Victimisation

Any employee who victimises an employee or otherwise subjects the employee to any adverse conduct for raising a grievance under this policy may be subject to disciplinary action.

Victimisation may be against the law, particularly in cases concerning bullying, sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination.

Malicious or Vexatious Complaints

It is a serious breach of this policy to lodge a complaint that is known to be false or that is malicious or vexatious. Any such conduct may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

Employees should be assured, however, that they will not be subjected to disciplinary action simply because they raise a grievance that [the Company] determines is unsubstantiated.

More information

[Insert designated person] may be contacted should any employee have any  queries about this policy.

Free Workplace Grievance Policy Template

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