Problems in the workplace

There are many types of issues that can occur in an employment relationship. How they should be dealt with will depend on the nature of the problem and the parties concerned.

What is an employment problem?

An employment problem is anything that harms, or is likely to harm, an employment relationship.

The employment relationship could be between:

  • an employee and their employer
  • fellow employees
  • a manager and an employee
  • a and its members
  • a union and an employer
  • different unions covering employees in the same workplace.

If you require information regarding your pay, leave or other entitlements, see:

Leave and Holidays

Pay and hours

Examples of employment problems

Employment problems can be wide-ranging and include:

  • disagreements over hours, pay and leave
  • a breakdown of relationships
  • discrimination, harassment and bullying
  • poor performance
  • misconduct
  • workplace change
  • health and safety concerns
  • long-term illnesses
  • claims of unfair dismissal.

Some of these problems may be the basis for personal grievance claims, which must be dealt with in a specific way under the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Personal grievances

Restructuring and workplace change

Resolving a problem

How to resolve a problem will depend on the type of issue and the parties involved. Some problems will be minor and can resolved relatively simply. Others may be more serious, requiring further steps to achieve a resolution — including formal or escalation to an external decision-making body.

In all their dealings, employers and employees should engage with each other respectfully and in good faith. 

How to resolve problems

Good faith

Employment agreements

All must contain a clear and simple description of how to resolve any problems that arise. It’s important that everyone is familiar with the employment agreement and any relevant workplace policies, and that they follow the correct processes whenever there is an employment problem.

Our Employment Agreement Builder can help employers draft employment agreements with the specific clauses that deal with employment problems, alongside any other specialist advice. 

Employment Agreement Builder(external link)

Employment agreements

Keeping written records

It is a good idea for both employers and employees to record any important conversations in writing.

The written record does not need to be complex, but it should be dated, accurate and stored carefully. If a problem does occur, dealing with it quickly using the policy and procedures in place should prevent it from getting bigger.

Record keeping

Preventing employment problems

The best way to approach employment relationship issues is to prevent them happening in the first place.

A few simple practices can help relationships run smoothly and prevent problems.

  • Take time to communicate clearly. Poor communication often causes disputes and misunderstandings.
  • Raise concerns when they first arise to stop them becoming bigger and harder to resolve.
  • Make sure workplace policies, procedures and work rules are easy to understand and well communicated.
  • Use effective processes for setting performance expectations, having regular performance conversations, providing employee updates about what is going on, and dealing with things like change and performance issues.
  • Develop and maintain processes to address and investigate complaints about things like bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment.

       Preventing bullying, harassment and discrimination

  • Create a culture where everyone shares the responsibility for preventing and clearing up confusion or mistakes. For example, if an employee believes they are being overpaid they should raise the potential error.
  • Keep up-to-date with your employment rights and responsibilities.

       Rights and responsibilities

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