The importance of effectively managing an employee complaint is often underestimated in many workplaces. Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, and can be due to a range of reasons, with the top ten workplace employee complaints involving:

  • Sexual Harassment
  • Discriminatory Harassment
  • Bullying
  • Violence
  • Communication Breakdowns
  • Management Dissatisfaction
  • Employee Hygiene
  • Underpayment
  • Theft
  • Retaliation

Regardless of how insignificant an employee complaint may seem, it is important to treat it seriously and have a process to handle it effectively. When an employee complaint isn’t managed effectively, repercussions may include a de-stabilisation of the workforce culture, other employees thinking that the behaviour is appropriate and accepted, a continuation and escalation of the issue, or an investigation by Fair Work and/or potential litigation.

Do I need to document all employee complaints?

With any workplace relations matter, documentation is crucial. Documentation serves as evidence that issues were discussed properly, show a timeline of events, and also any action that was taken. This will be your main source of protection in the event of the matter being escalated. It is therefore important to document any meetings, correspondence, or processes that occur when handling an employee complaint, even if initially considered a minor grievance.

What is the process of effectively handling an employee complaint?

Whilst an employee complaint can be confronting to receive, it can often be handled without escalation. With the right process in place, the complaint may be handled and resolved quickly and amicably.

The first course of action when you become aware of an employee complaint is to ask the employee to put their complaint in writing and include details such as the date and time of the incident, other people involved. When a manager or owner is receiving this complaint, it is important to validate the employee’s concerns and respond in writing stating that you have received their complaint and that you will look into the matter within a specified timeframe, referencing any policy or procedure that the business may have in place.

Book a time with the employee to discuss their complaint, and it is best practice to invite them to bring a support person if they would like. Document the meeting and save a copy for your records.

Do we need to have independent investigators?

A critical part of dealing with an employee complaint is conducting a proper investigation.

Depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint, it may be necessary to engage an independent party to conduct an investigation into the matter. This is particularly important for some issues that may relate to bullying, theft, harassment, or violence, as an independent investigation may be viewed more favourably in the event the case results in formal legal action.

Regardless whether the matter is dealt with by the business or a third party, it should include interviewing each employee involved in the matter and reviewing other evidence such as email, text and other forms of communication. It is important that this process is thoroughly documented by the person(s) conducting the investigation as it may be used as evidence.

Do all complaints need to be investigated?

Some employee complaints such as a person’s hygiene may not require a full investigation or the involvement of a third party, as a conversation between the employee’s manager and the employee would be enough to resolve the matter.

How to resolve and close the complaint process

Regardless of the severity of the complaint, it is important to notify the complainant throughout the process of the actions being undertaken with respect to the process, and when the investigation has been finalised and appropriate actions determined, advise the employee of the outcomes of the investigation that are relevant to them, and that their complaint is now closed.

If you’re looking for assistance in investigating an employee complaint or help with creating an employee complaints handling process, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team, via the chat box here or calling us on 08 6150 0043.

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