Feeling bullied, harassed, or treated unfairly at work? Find out what steps you should take when making a complaint at work. Discover the options available and who can help resolve your dispute.
Want to make a complaint about your employer but are unsure where to start? Let’s take a closer look.
What Are Valid Reasons For Filing A Complaint?
We spend a lot of our time at work, so we must maintain good working relationships with colleagues and management. When issues arise, it can create an uncomfortable and challenging work environment.
There are several reasons you may decide to make a complaint about your employer, and in some instances, unless you submit a complaint in writing, your issue may not get resolved. This may result in the problem escalating to a critical stage, and a person could feel forced to complain.
A common fear about complaining is the risk of losing their job or creating an uncomfortable work environment. This will often discourage many workers from filing a complaint.
These are some of the more common reasons for filing a complaint:
- Unfair dismissal
- Unreasonable conditions of employment
Where Do You Lodge Your Complaint?
The process for lodging a complaint will vary depending on the nature of the complaint and your employer. Several organisations provide support and services to employees in NSW.
You should contact the fair work ombudsman if your dispute is regarding pay, work conditions or rights. Factsheets are available on their website.
When complaining about an organisation that provides health services in NSW, such as a clinic or hospital, you should contact the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
If you are a local government employee or work in the public sector, you may be able to receive assistance from the industrial commission in your state.
The National Customer Service Line (NCSL) addresses complaints regarding employment services; they have a downloadable complaints form available online.
If you feel your issue is a breach of the current NSW employee relation laws, you should contact your local community legal centre or a lawyer for further advice.
If you have been discriminated against due to disability, sex, race, age, religion or sexual preference, you can take matters further by contacting the Australian Human Rights Commission. More information can be found on their website.
Before You Begin
Sometimes an informal discussion can resolve minor issues. It is always good to speak to your supervisor or colleague informally before making a complaint. Often a genuine mistake or misunderstanding can be rectified with a quick conversation. A more formal approach may be necessary if this does not resolve the issue. Before raising your concerns, you should research to ensure you understand the procedure for handling complaints at work.
Ensure Your Issue Is Current
Generally, addressing issues early is the best way to find a practical solution. For example, raising something that happened in a workplace a month ago may make things difficult for staff to recall the situation’s particulars.
Read Your Contract
Before submitting a formal complaint, it is always good to check your contract’s fine print to ensure that your issue is valid. The terms of your employment may state important information relating to workplace relations. You may find that your workplace agreement clearly states relevant information regarding your problem and working arrangement.
Also, check your contract for information regarding complaints. There may be references to the specific procedure to resolve a workplace dispute.
Policies And Procedures
In most cases, your workplace should have a policies and procedures guideline or manual that employees can access. It may already detail the steps to take when addressing harassment or bullying in the workplace or grievance resolution. The policy may describe the employer’s process to address performance management and disciplinary action.
Your enterprise agreement may contain a dispute resolution clause which details the process to follow to raise and resolve a workplace dispute.
If there is no enterprise agreement, you may raise the matter with your employer regarding the applicable industrial award.
What Should You Put In Your Complaint?
When making a complaint, you must express your concerns clearly. Vague or general information can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. You should follow these guidelines to ensure that you provide all the necessary information:
- Firstly state that you are making a formal complaint
- Wherever possible, refer to a specific policy or provision in your award or employment agreement
- Summarise the nature of your complaint
- Provide a historical and factual recount of the events with detailed information
- When complaining about numerous issues, state the most important first
- Stay accurate and avoid making presumptions or generalised statements
- State your desired outcome
- Structure your complaint in an easy to read manner with headings and summaries
- Refer to any evidence that may support your claim
- Provide a deadline to avoid employer procrastination and to ensure your issue can be resolved quickly
Protecting Your Privacy
By law, your personal information is protected under the Privacy Act. Your private information should only be disclosed to other parties who are needed to assist with handling your complaint. Employers should be committed to maintaining your privacy and managing your case in accordance with the Australian privacy principles.
People who need assistance with communicating can utilise a translating and interpreting service or the National relay service, which helps people who are deaf and hard of hearing or who have a speech impairment. Any personal information obtained by these agencies is protected by law under the Privacy Act.
A person may feel more comfortable making an anonymous complaint. You may need a signed consent form if you ask someone to make a complaint on your behalf. Unfortunately, in some cases, remaining anonymous may limit the ability to investigate the problem thoroughly, and the issue may not get resolved. If further information is required to follow up on the matter, it may be challenging to do so if the complaint was made anonymously and you did not provide your personal details.
What Happens After You Make A Complaint?
Depending on your workplace and its policies and grievance procedures, the following steps will vary, mainly if your issue is severe.
Your HR department will be able to provide information regarding the complaints process and the procedure after your complaint has been lodged. Every business will have its approach to handling complaints.
Depending on the particulars of the matter, mediation may offer a suitable solution to resolve issues. Conversation with the respondent in an informal setting with an independent consultant may help produce a mutually agreeable solution to the problem. Mediation and conciliation is a voluntary process. You should never feel obliged to participate if you feel harassed or bullied by the person.
Initially, a staff member will respond to your complaint. They should confirm the issues raised and will give you their contact information. They will conduct an investigation and may contact you for more detailed information.
The person will attempt to resolve your complaint and may, in serious cases of sexual harassment or bullying, consult with an external body that specialises in these matters to conduct an investigation, such as the Fair Work Commission.
They should keep you updated as to the progress of your concern, provide feedback and state whether they feel it is substantiated. You should allow at least 7-14 days for a response.
For issues relating to unfair dismissal, the staff member may forward your details to the NSW industrial relations department to investigate your complaint.
Once a decision is made, you will be contacted and advised of the outcome of your complaint. It should be provided in writing. It may be disciplinary action against another employee, further training, or in extreme cases, termination of employment.
After lodging a complaint, it may be challenging to maintain good working relationships with your colleagues, particularly if the issue was lodged with the fair work commission. If you are not happy with the outcome, you can take your complaint further, and it can be reviewed by a third party such as the NSW Ombudsman.
When you make a complaint, you must express your concerns clearly. Vague or general information can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. You should summarise the nature of your complaint, stay factual and state your desired outcome.
Addressing issues early is the best way to find a practical solution. Try to participate in mediation or approach those involved informally. Sometimes, this can resolve the issue and lead to a mutually agreeable solution.
In severe sexual harassment or bullying cases, consultation with external bodies, such as the Fair Work Commission, may be required as they specialise in these matters.
Resolving workplace complaints can be a stressful time for everyone involved. Understanding your rights and obligations can help ensure a positive outcome for all involved.
1. How Do I File A Complaint Against An Employer In Australia?
Often an informal discussion can resolve minor issues, and it is always good to approach your supervisor or colleague informally before making a complaint.
When making a complaint, you must express your concerns clearly. Vague or general information can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. You should summarise the nature of your complaint, stay factual and state your desired outcome. You should provide a historical and accurate recount of the events with detailed information and provide evidence to support your claim.
2. What Happens When A Complaint Is Filed With HR?
Your employer can provide information regarding the complaints process and the process after your complaint has been lodged. Every business will have its procedure for handling complaints.
A staff member will respond to your concern, confirm the issues raised and provide their contact details. They will conduct an investigation and may contact you for more information. Once a decision has been made, you will be contacted and advised of the outcome of your complaint. It should be provided in writing. It may be disciplinary action against another employee or counselling to improve workplace relations.
3. How Do I Complain About My Boss Anonymously?
A person may feel more comfortable making an anonymous complaint. There are many options available now to submit a complaint online. In this circumstance, you may opt not to provide your contact details. Unfortunately, in some cases, this may limit the ability to investigate the problem thoroughly, and the issue may not get resolved. If further information is required to follow up on the matter, it may be challenging to do so if the complaint was made anonymously and you did not provide any contact details.