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Almost every person employed will have a complaint or a grievance about their employer. Some of these are just the way the world is, but it is not fair to be in fear of going to work. You are owed the right to attend work without fear of discrimination and to work in a safe environment. When genuine issues form in the workplace either from unfair performance appraisals or if any form of discrimination has emerged in the workplace against you or another colleague. You are protected by a set of workplace law; you are in your right to enter whatever form of the dispute resolution process available to you to bring to light these issues.

Workplace Law Guide: Steps to Consider for Attempting to Resolve an Issue

When you have an issue/complaint or a dispute at work, the first step for an employee is to take into account what tools you have available to fix the issue. To do this, you need to look into the contract that you have entered into when you began employment. Whether you are in an Enterprise Workplace agreement or under a Modern Award, they are required by workplace law to have a section that details how a workplace dispute will be resolved. You are currently trying to address the issue of your workplace using the internal methods that they have provided. Some contracts will even allow third parties to work as mediators to your dispute which helps remove an obvious bias that you could have felt had mediation occurred from your employer. 

Workplace disputes/complaints can arise in any workplace, and it begins when one or more people disagree about something and the matter remains unresolved. When a fair and balanced dispute resolution approach is utilised by a workplace it allows employees to know that their grievances are being taken seriously. This, in turn, creates a better working environment for both employers and employees who become more cooperative and productive for the business. 

After looking at what your contract makes available for when you lodge a complaint. It is important to look at the relevant internal policy of your company. Many workplaces will usually provide an employee with a set of policy which regulates workplace matter such as Workplace Health and Safety, Any and all forms of discrimination in the workplace and bullying that occurs within the workplace. These internal policies will illustrate the procedures that are in place by dealing with any of these offences. This will be the first point of call for both employers and employees when an issue arises because they will clearly outline the policies and the appropriate actions that should be taken. 

Workplace Law: Fair Work Act of 2009

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, it is required that both Modern Awards and Enterprise agreements are required to have a procedure of resolving disputes between employees and employers about any matter which can be brought about from under the agreement or relating to the National Employment Standards. The Fair Work Act also has an independent body called the Fair Work Commission that resolves a range of collective and individual workplace disputes through conciliation, mediation and in some cases even arbitration.

Proceeding with the Internal Complaint Process

Now that you have an understanding of the relevant internal workplace law and policies that have been affected and the complaint/dispute process that is outlined in your contract. You can begin the internal complaint process. Predominantly, this begins by speaking with your supervisor. We advise that this performed in writing as this evidence may help you later. One of the other reasons we advise this is because your emotions can become involved which makes it harder for the other side to understand your complaint. By sitting down and writing it out – you allow yourself to breath and think about the situation. You can remain clear and level-headed when drafting this response in a clear chronological order which in turn will help your employers deal with the complaint. 

Processing a Complaint About Your Boss or Supervisor

Now, if your complaint is about your supervisor or if you feel that they have not taken your complaint seriously, you can then contact the next important person that is above them. This will depend on the type of organisation that you work for. For example, you may have a Human Resources department that deals specifically within the complaint process and would be of greater assistance than another manager. 

Collecting Evidence for Your Complaint

It is entirely possible that you may need to have evidence to corroborate the events that you portray. You can submit emails and text messages as evidence or even witnesses. If you feel or are requested for more information, then feel free to ask a colleague that was there. However, many colleagues may feel the same about the complaint but please do not pressure them into speaking up if they do not feel like it. 

Steps to Take if the Complaint Cannot Be Handled Internally

If you have exhausted the avenues available to you within the internal complaint process and feel that no action or the action that has taken place isn’t satisfactory then you should begin to look at the external compliant process. The avenue of your complaint may change depending on the circumstances of your complaint. For example, issues with Workplace Health and Safety should be brought up to the relevant Statutory body such as SafeWork. Whereas, if your complaint is about discrimination within the workplace then the Anti-Discrimination Board is the most appropriate contact. 

However, if you are unsure about the most appropriate avenue to begin the external complaint process then lodging a complaint to the Fair Work Commission or speaking with a Fair Work Ombudsman is the best. The Fair Work Commission is the National Workplace relations tribunal that has the power to carry out a range of functions. The Fair Work Commission provides applications for the various types of disputes at work such as a ‘Bullying Stop order’ which will put your employer on notice for the bullying that takes place within the workplace. 


If you have exhausted all available avenues both internally or externally and are still unhappy with the results. Then the final step would be to speak with a solicitor specialising in workplace law.