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02 September 2021

I've received a personal grievance claim - What do I do next

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Receiving a personal grievance claim from one of your workers can be stressful, time-consuming, and costly. To avoid these outcomes, you need to take control of the situation.

To do this, as soon as you receive the claim, you should:

·       Keep the claim confidential to yourself;

·       Preserve and collate documents and information relevant to the claim; and

·       Talk to your lawyer before responding to your employee.

These steps are discussed in more detail below.

But first we explain what a personal grievance claim is, and when it can be brought.

What is a personal grievance claim?

Broadly speaking, your worker can raise a personal grievance with you if they believe they have been:

·       unjustifiably dismissed;

·       unjustifiably disadvantaged in their employment;

·       discriminated against on one of the prohibited grounds;

·       sexually or racially harassed;

·       bullied; and/or

·       subjected to duress due to membership or non-membership of a union or a workers’ organisation.

When can it be brought?

A claim must be raised with you within 90 days from the time the problem occurred, or your employee became aware of the problem.

A claim can only be raised after that period if you agree. If you don’t agree, then your worker will need permission from the Employment Relations Authority, which will only be given if the delay was due to exceptional circumstances.

Once raised, your worker has three years to bring a case in the Employment Relations Authority.

Keep the claim confidential

You should keep the fact, and details, of the claim confidential.

At this stage, you should not discuss the claim with your staff. If you do, you risk information filtering back, or your employees later being called as witnesses to give evidence about what you said to them. All of this could prejudice the conduct, and outcome, of the case (and any insurance cover).

As a rule of thumb, potential witnesses should not be interviewed until after you have reviewed all relevant documents and information with your lawyer.

Preserve and collate documents and information relevant to the claim

As part of the claim, you will be requested to disclose all relevant documents and information.

You therefore need to search all your hard copy and electronic sources – such as personnel files, wage, time and leave records, and email and text messages – as soon as possible.

At this stage, you are better off to have too much, rather than too little, information. This will form the backbone of what you discuss with your lawyer.

Talk to your lawyer

While it is understandable that you may want to respond as soon as possible, you should not do so until you have spoken to your lawyer.

They will be able to review the documents and information with you, hear your side of the story and provide you with a view on the strengths and weakness of the claim.

Your lawyer’s advice and recommendations will shape what you decide to do next, which could include:

·       denying the claim;

·       agreeing to attend mediation;

·       filing a statement in reply in the Employment Relations Authority; or

·       negotiating an agreed settlement.

Take action

You should take the above steps as soon as you receive a personal grievance claim.

By doing so, you take control and are better able to avoid the stress, time, and cost to resolve.

Don't try to manage it yourself. Not only can we ensure you don't make any costly mistakes in the process but we can help ensure you understand the best possible way to manage these going forward.

If you have received a personal grievance claim, or you have any other questions, please contact one of us today.


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