Employers should be well aware of the legal and associated requirements that come into play when someone in the workplace raises their hand with a grievance.
Complaints about unacceptable and/or inappropriate behaviour can arise from any work area, and in regard to a wide variety of issues. Grievance handling needs to be fair and consistent - yet with each situation being approached on an individual basis.
We take a look at creating a sound process for the receipt of complaints, which reflects and follows existing policies and procedures.
Complaints can be made in relation to all manner of behaviours. Examples include allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment and even - in workplaces involving children - child abuse.
Harassment itself covers a wide range of behaviours that could occur on or offsite, including those via digital communication such as email, social media platforms and messaging.
Employers should note that alleged perpetrators can be colleagues, managers and even occasionally worksite personnel such as contractors.
For employers it can sometimes be difficult to know just where to begin once a complaint has been received. At a basic level, all internal procedures and policies should be carefully followed to ensure fairness and consistency.
A clear and well-understood complaints process needs to be in place prior to the (inevitable) receipt of a workplace complaint. All those involved should receive even-handed treatment, with any decisions being made in a defined and measured way.
In some instances, the alleged behaviour will constitute reportable conduct, with an employer obliged to notify a specified body about the allegation under a compulsory reporting regime.
As society comes to grips with some of the behaviours that can occur in relation to our most vulnerable individuals, more stringent reporting requirements for employers continue to be developed. For example, the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been designed to ensure that employers take timely and objective steps upon receipt of any relevant complaint.
In the case of complaints, it pays to ask some basic questions about the situations such as:
A key issue is the manner in which the people involved in a complaint are treated and how any required information is communicated.
At all times, employers should take the matter seriously, refrain from victimising any individual and ensure the same treatment for all personnel involved.
Confidentiality should be maintained at all times and support mechanisms put in place for what is, inevitably, a difficult time in the workplace.
It is vital for employers to be aware of their legal obligations and best practice when it comes to addressing workplace complaints. Complaint handling can become quite complex depending on the type of complaints and the number of people involved.
WISE provides professional and up-to-date training on conducting workplace investigations. Our courses are specifically designed for those engaged in the investigation of workplace misconduct, including bullying and harassment. Please call us if you would like expert assistance around complaints processing and the best way to ensure fairness if - and when - a workplace complaint is received. In addition keep an eye out over the next seven weeks, as we will be publishing a series of articles, in which we examine the workplace investigation process.
WISE Workplace is a multidisciplinary organisation specialising in the management of workplace behaviour. We investigate matters of corporate and professional misconduct, resolve conflict through mediation and minimise the impact of inappropriate behaviour through our whistleblower services.
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