Informal action

Employers and employees can take informal action to resolve an issue early, especially if the matter is not serious, is a one-off, or is unlikely to happen again.

Raising an issue early

The earlier an issue is raised, the more likely it is that confusion or further conflict will be avoided, the relationship will be protected, and a positive outcome will result.

Unresolved issues can cause unnecessary stress and negatively impact people at work and outside of the workplace.

Waiting can also increase the cost of resolving the issue and people may run out of time to bring formal action. It can be tempting to hope that the problem will fix itself or go away, but this is unlikely to happen if it is not addressed. In some situations, the other person may not even know that there is a problem.

Early resolution

Employees raising an issue

Sometimes an employee will want to raise an issue with their employer. Situations where an employee might want to have a discussion with their employer could include where they:

  • are not sure they are getting paid correctly
  • want to check how their leave and holiday entitlements are being calculated
  • are unhappy with changes to their hours or working arrangements
  • need to come clean about a mistake they have made
  • are bothered by something at work
  • have a health and safety concern
  • want to apply for negotiated carer leave.

Problems in the workplace

Note that there will always be:

  • topics that are not easy to talk about
  • situations where people are not sure what to say or feel uncomfortable
  • differences in opinion.

It is not always easy raising issues with an employer, but employees can, if they wish, bring a support person like their , lawyer or employment representative, a friend or family member, or a trusted workmate to a meeting. A support person can offer support, help them understand the issues, and take notes so that the employee can focus on the meeting.

Talking to your employer

Situations where an employee might not approach their employer directly

There may be situations where an employee feels uncomfortable about raising an issue with their employer directly or on their own, for example, if:

  • their employer is harassing or bullying them
  • they are afraid of their employer
  • their employer is located in a different area
  • they cannot communicate with their employer directly because of language difficulties.

In these situations, employees should seek advice. This could be from their:

  • union
  • workmate or trusted manager
  • workplace human resources person
  • health and safety representative
  • workplace Employee Assistance Programme
  • legal representative
  • local community law centre or citizens’ advice.

Bullying, harassment and discrimination

Employers raising an issue

Sometimes an employer may want to raise a minor concern or issue with an employee. In these situations, it might not be necessary or useful to follow a formal disciplinary process or put a performance improvement plan in place. For example, an employer might be satisfied with an employee’s work but want the employee to manage their timekeeping better. In this situation, the employer should talk to the employee about what they have seen and what correction or shift they would like the employee to make.

Cautioning an employee

An employer may choose to caution an employee, advising that if the change does not happen a more formal disciplinary process may be required. A caution can also be used during informal management of performance. If there is no improvement or visible effort made by the employee, the employer may put a formal performance improvement in place with the employee.

Performance issues

These sorts of issues do not need to be a big deal. Good communication between employers and employees helps to build good employment relationships and prevent more serious issues arising.

Steps to resolve problems

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