Grievance procedures

Grievance procedures should cover all possible grievances that may occur in the workplace e.g. management decisions, promotions, training, transfers, rosters, workplace safety, work environment, harassment and discrimination.

The grievance handling procedure should provide a list of approachable staff that people can contact if they have a grievance in the workplace. These may include contact points such as Supervisors, Contact Officers, Diversity or EEO Officers.

Approximately 70% of Australian workplaces have formal grievance procedures. There are plenty of models available and many organisations are happy to share the procedures they have developed.

Most important elements

The most important elements of a grievance procedure are:

  • Timely responses – complaints should be dealt with as soon as they are received;
  • Sensitivity – ensure both parties feelings are respected throughout the process;
  • Fairness and impartiality – both parties must be afforded substantive and procedural fairness in any investigation. Both sides of the story must be heard. An external investigator can be contracted to undertake the investigation to ensure a fair process;
  • Confidentiality – only parties directly involved in the investigation of the complaint or those involved in making decisions about outcomes should have access to information about the grievance;
  • Allow for appeals – a review by someone who did not handle the investigation should be provided; and
  • Victimisation - Ensure all parties are aware that victimisation against anyone involved in the complaint will not be tolerated and is against the law.

An organisation that has grievance procedures in place has a better chance of a happier, healthier workforce than an organisation that doesn't.


Employers should make an effort to:

  • circulate policies and related information widely and in accessible formats and appropriate languages;
  • incorporate grievance procedures which are accessible to all staff;
  • develop educational programs (training, leaflets, posters, flyers etc) for all staff about their rights and responsibilities;
  • provide information and support for potential complainants to effect early resolution and positive outcomes; and
  • review policies and procedures on a regular basis.

External grievance options

If internal grievance procedures fail or the complainant is not happy with the outcome they should be advised of their external grievance options.

These may include: