Workplace complaints create a minefield of issues

01 February, 2017

When dealing with workplace complaints, a company needs to know how to deal with them quickly and appropriately. This can ultimately prevent further problems like losing good staff or it leading to legal proceedings.

When an employee makes a workplace complaint, it can create a minefield of potential issues for the employer. It is very important to make sure that the issues are identified and dealt with as promptly as possible to ensure things are not perceived as being ignored or otherwise get out of hand. Your business may have policies and procedures to guide you and if so, it is important that these are followed correctly.

Any time a business employs people, there is the potential for workplace disputes no matter how good an employer you are. Sometimes it can be as simple as a personality clash but if not addressed early, things can escalate and what would otherwise have been a minor issue that could have been effectively mediated and resolved through co-operative means, can become toxic over time as the parties involved become more and more emotionally involved in the dispute. If a problem gets out of hand if may end up requiring a full investigation into the conduct of the employees, which is a costly and time consuming exercise.

There are various protections under the Fair Work Act 2009 where employees make a complaint, including applications for stop bullying orders, unfair dismissal and general protections claims. The general protections provisions prohibit the taking of adverse action against an employee because they accessed a workplace right, for example making an enquiry or complaint. This includes a range of actions including termination, reduced hours, or any other form of discrimination. By seeking to take action against an employee after they have made a complaint, an employer may be at risk of receiving a general protections claim if they have not followed the correct processes.

Employers are often unsure as to how to handle a complaint made by an employee. It is very important to genuinely listen to the complaint, and to not respond impulsively. This will provide the opportunity to better consider the complaint and to seek advice from the Employee Relations Advice Centre before responding.

Depending on the complexity of the complaint, you may prefer a Consultant to assist you, however, if you would prefer to handle the process yourself, it is important that you are completely aware of both your own policies and procedures as well as your legal requirements.