Under the Employment Relations Act 2000 employees must raise a personal grievance with their employer within 90 days of the events giving rise to the grievance or coming to the employee’s attention.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RAISE A PERSONAL GRIEVANCE IN NEW ZEALAND?
There is no special formula or magic words that employees need to use. It may not even be necessary to use the words “personal grievance”.
The Employment Court has said:
The raising of a grievance must be the bringing to the employer’s notice of the employee’s wish to challenge as unjustified one or more of the events defined in the statute as a grievance to a sufficient degree that the employer can comprehend that there is a grievance, the nature of it, and how the employee wishes that to be dealt with.
In other words, there are three elements that must be brought to the employer’s notice:
- that there is a grievance
- what the grievance relates to
- what the employee wants the employer to do about it
Provided those three elements are brought to the employer’s attention, the employee will have raised their grievance.
WHAT COUNTS AS A PERSONAL GRIEVANCE?
Personal grievances are not limited to cases where employees have been dismissed.
There are several categories of personal grievances listed in the Employment Relations Act 2000. These include where the employee has been:
- unjustifiably dismissed
- disadvantaged by their employer
- discriminated against
- sexually harassed
- racially harassed
- pressured to become a union member or to stop being a union member
The most common types of personal grievances are where employees have been dismissed or have been disadvantaged in some way during their employment, say for example where they have been underpaid, demoted or suspended from work. Where an employee has been disadvantaged they may still be employed when they raise their personal grievance within the 90 day time limit.
A TEMPLATE PERSONAL GRIEVANCE LETTER
Bearing the above in mind, here is a suggested template that employees may wish to adopt when writing a letter or email to their employer raising a personal grievance.
Dear [insert employer’s name]
I am writing to raise a personal grievance for [insert here what type of personal grievance it is that you are raising eg, “unjustified dismissal” or “unjustified disadvantage”].
The reasons I believe that I have a personal grievance are [insert a brief description of what the grievance is about eg, “that I should not have been dismissed for redundancy because …” or, “that I should have received a bonus because …”]
The facts as I see them are [insert a list of the key events from your perspective that have lead to the grievance. It may be best to set these out in a serious of bullet points in chronological order so that the employer can understand what you are alleging].
I would like you to address my grievance by [insert here how you want the employer to respond eg, “confirming that you agree to attend a mediation provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment where we can discuss how my grievance can be resolved”; or, “paying me the bonus of $1,000 that I believe I am owed under the terms of my employment agreement”].
Please respond to this letter by 5pm on [insert a date that is seven days from the date of your letter or email to give the employer time to respond to you] to advise whether you agree to address my grievance in the way that I have suggested.
[insert employee’s name]
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE EMPLOYER DOESN’T RESPOND?
Sometimes an employer will not respond. If that happens to you, do not assume that it is because the employer is ignoring you. Your email or letter may have been misplaced and may never have been seen by the employer.
So the first thing to do is to follow up by writing to the employer again, attaching a copy of the first letter, and giving a fresh deadline for response. If they still fail to respond, you should speak with them directly to confirm that they have received your correspondence.
If it is clear that the employer is choosing to ignore your personal grievance, then your next option is to file a claim in the Employment Relations Authority. Once you have filed your claim, the Authority takes over the process and will get in touch with your employer for their response. Typically, once the employer has filed their response, the Authority will order that you both attend mediation provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.