Remember that the earlier that an issue is raised and the better the approach, the more likely that further confusion or conflict will be avoided, the relationship will be protected and there will be a good outcome. Unresolved issues can have a stressful and emotional impact on people and this can have a negative effect on work, and relationships at work and outside work. Waiting can also increase the potential cost of resolving the issue or people may run out of time to bring formal action. It can be tempting to hope that the matter will fix itself or go away, but this is unlikely to happen without it being addressed. In some situations the other person may not even know that there is a problem.
Employees wanting to raise issues
Sometimes an employee will want to raise an issue with their employer. Situations where an employee may want to have a discussion with their employer include if they:
- are unsure about whether they are getting paid correctly
- want to check how their leave and holiday entitlements are being worked out correctly
- don’t like 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.
Note that there will always be:
- topics someone doesn’t want 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 could bring a support person such as their union, lawyer or employment representative, friend or family or a trusted workmate. Bringing a support person along means they can give support, help with understanding of the issues and take notes so that the employee can focus on the meeting.
Sometimes an employer may only 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 enter a Performance Improvement Plan. For example, an employer might be satisfied with an employee’s work, but wants 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.
For tips and suggestions on having a discussion with employers, see talking to your employer.
There may be situations where an employee feels uncomfortable about raising an issue with their employer directly or on their own, eg if:
- the 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.
Employers wanting to raise issues
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 enter a Performance Improvement Plan. For example, an employer might be satisfied with an employee’s work, but wants 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.
The employer may choose to caution the employee advising that if the change does not happen then they may move to a more formal disciplinary process. 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 then implement a more formal Performance Improvement Plan with the employee. Informal intervention has more information about how to manage 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.