Steps to resolve problems

When an employment issue is raised, it’s important to act promptly and follow an agreed process for resolving problems.

Follow an agreed process

How you resolve an employment issue will depend on the nature of the problem and those involved.

Some issues will be minor and can be resolved simply by the parties themselves. Other issues may require outside help, for example, formal .

Ignoring a problem and hoping it will go away can lead to bigger problems later. Delays can also create added frustration and ‘avoidable distress’, with productivity, legal and cost consequences.

There should be a plain-language process for problem resolution in all employment agreements. This can help protect people’s rights and provide information to support decision-making. It can also help ensure that a problem does not get worse through inconsistencies or misunderstandings.

In some cases, not following the process can cause the breakdown of the employment relationship and lead an employee to claim unfair treatment, so it’s important to get the process right.

Resolving issues yourselves

Identify the problem

Think the issue through and gather all the information you need. It’s worth spending time identifying the underlying cause to help you understand how the problem might be resolved.

What’s the real problem?

If you think there is an issue, try to understand the underlying cause and how the problem might best be resolved. Sometimes the real problem is not immediately obvious.

Collect all the relevant information you need and properly think the problem through. Overlooking important facts, or changing the facts, can make the problem worse.

The kinds of questions you may need to ask are:

  • what relevant information is there in the employment agreement, workplace policies, work rules, and job description?
  • when and how did the problem arise?
  • does the problem involve one employee or a group of employees?
  • has anyone else experienced the same problem and, if so, what was done to resolve it?
  • have you talked to the person or people involved about the problem?
  • have any actions been taken already? Did those actions help or not?

Sometimes it’s a good idea to talk to another manager, or a trusted friend, to clarify whether a problem exists and what the issues might be. Remember to respect the privacy of others and to protect confidential information.

Where more than one person has the same issue

Sometimes a number of people will have the same problem. If so, it could help to deal with the problems collectively and to look for a solution that works for everyone. Where employees are union members, their union can play an important part in representing their interests.

Unions and bargaining

Seek mediation help

If you have not been successful, or you would like some outside help, our free phone-based early resolution service provides assistance to resolve workplace issues quickly and informally before they become too serious and require a more formal process.

Early resolution

If you have still not been able to resolve the problem, or if you think might help, you can go to mediation either through Employment Mediation Services or through independent mediators.


Personal grievance

Employees can raise a personal grievance (a type of formal complaint) with their employer in some circumstances. There are particular timeframes within which this must be done.

Personal grievances

Recording a settlement

If you come to an agreement at any point, you can formalise it in a ‘record of settlement’. This is a document outlining what you have agreed to, which can be signed by a mediator to make it legally binding and enforceable.

Records of settlement

Escalate unresolved issues

If, after mediation or other processes, you have not resolved your problem, you can take the matter to an external decision-making body, for example, the Employment Relations Authority, the Employment Court, or Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Escalating unresolved issues

Breaches of minimum employment rights and exploitation

If you see or suspect a breach of minimum employment rights — including migrant exploitation — you should report it.

To do this complete our online reporting form or call us on 0800 200 088. Our call centre is open Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 5:30pm excluding public holidays.

Contact us

Migrant exploitation

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