Welcome to Part 7 of “How to write an Employee Handbook. It is reasonable to expect that, from time to time, employees will have disputes and disagreements. As an employer, it is part of your responsibility to ensure that employees are protected while at work. Part of protecting your employees is taking their complaints seriously and ensuring that there is a complaint-handling procedure in place so that employees know exactly how to go about making a formal or informal complaint. This article will look at the informal procedures for handling these complaints and how to best incorporate these into your Employee Handbook.

Complaint Procedures

It should be the Business’ policy to make all employees responsible for maintaining a workplace free of inappropriate behaviour, discrimination, harassment, bullying and victimisation and for reporting any violations of these policies. Encourage employees who experience such behaviour to report it. If employees are encouraged to promptly report the concern, then it may be properly addressed. If reporting the incident to the manager is inappropriate because the situation involves a manager, urge staff to report the incident to the next level of management. Make sure employees feel comfortable reporting the incident and explain that it is never necessary for an employee to speak directly to the person who is the subject of the complaint.

Reporting a dispute, complaint or grievance

If employees have a dispute, complaint or grievance or witness an incident or incidents that could give rise to a dispute, complaint or grievance, the Employee Handbook should instruct that the employees refer the matter to the immediate manager, or, when the manager is involved in the inappropriate behaviour, the Disputes & Grievances Officer, who will be responsible for investigating the matter and taking appropriate action.

Explain that employees may bring a support person with them when they initially report a dispute, complaint or grievance to the Disputes & Grievances Officer provided that the support person does not witness the incident or incidents that gave rise to the dispute, complaint or grievance being made. A witness may need to be interviewed by the Disputes & Grievances Officer as part of their investigation of the dispute, complaint or grievance.

What does a Disputes & Grievances Officer do?

Insert a clause into the Employee Handbook that explains the role of the Disputes & Grievances Officer. For example, the Officer will do the following:

  • document the dispute, complaint or grievance based on the information and material made available to them;
  • confirm with you the accuracy of the document;
  • outline the processes available to the Business to resolve the dispute, complaint or grievance;
  • seek your agreement to the appropriate process to be adopted in the circumstances;
  • estimate the time to complete the process and resolve the dispute, complaint or grievance.

Informal measures

Sometimes the Disputes and Grievance Officer will want the matter to be resolved informally. Include an explanation in the Employee Handbook of the informal means of dealing with a dispute, complaint or grievance, including:

  • The employee may speak to the other person directly and notify them that the relevant incident or their behaviour was inappropriate;
  • The Disputes & Grievances Officer may speak to the other person on behalf of the Complaining party to convey their concerns regarding the relevant incident or their behaviour;
  • The Disputes & Grievances Officer may speak to the other person, notify them that they have reported a dispute, complaint or grievance and invite them to participate in a meeting with the Complaining party;
  • The other person’s manager or supervisor may speak to them and remind them of their obligations under the Business’s policies.

For employees that wish to attempt to resolve the dispute, complaint or grievance informally, the Disputes & Grievances Officer will:

  • Document that a dispute, complaint or grievance has been reported, provided that the complaining party gives the Disputes & Grievances Officer consent to do so;
  • Only document the name of the other person who is the subject of the dispute, complaint or grievance in circumstances where the person admits the relevant incident or behaviour; or
  • Not document the name of the person who is the subject of the dispute, complaint or grievance if the person does not admit the relevant incident or behaviour and the matter is not investigated.

Conclusion

The dispute, complaint or grievance may be resolved after any one or more of these informal measures are completed. Typically, if the matter is resolved informally, no further action will be taken by the Business. If, however, the dispute, complaint or grievance is not resolved through informal measures, you should inform the complaining party that they may request that the Disputes & Grievances Officer deal with the matter through formal measures.

If you need assistance in drafting an effective Employee Handbook that limits your liability as the employer, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755.

Lachlan McKnight

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