Public sector employers have obligations under the Public Administration Act 2004 that apply to their actions regarding the grievance process.
In particular, employers should note the requirements listed here.
Employers’ Grievance Responsibilities
Employers must comply with the:
- minimum requirements under the public sector standards (particularly the specific grievance requirements under the reasonable avenue of redress standard)
- requirements under the codes of conduct.
Additionally, public service employers must comply with:
- the Public Administration Act 2004 (particularly section 64)
- the Public Administration (Review of Actions) Regulations 2015 (particularly regulation 6).
Employers should also consider the VPSC’s guidance material regarding grievances, particularly its Reasonable Avenue of Redress Guidelines.
Informal Resolution of Grievances
Public sector employers are required under the public sector standards to encourage internal and informal resolution of issues before applying more formal processes (which may include the grievance review process).
Employers may do this by incorporating into their policies and practices informal processes for the resolution of grievances.
Employers may encourage in their policies that employees:
- raise their issue with their manager, another manager or human resources in the first instance
- (for selection grievances) request formal feedback from the selection panel
- request a third party (may be internal to the organisation) discuss the grievance and possible resolution with the parties (facilitated resolution).
Employers should ensure that their internal practices reflect their policy requirements, for example:
- include contacts in its policy for employees to discuss informal options for resolution of potential grievances
- encourage employees to exhaust informal resolution processes before lodging a grievance
- require that employees demonstrate their attempts to resolve their grievance informally before considering a review, or to provide reasons why this is not appropriate in their circumstances.
The VPSC has three key resources that employers should familiarise themselves with:
- Reasonable Avenue of Redress Guidelines
- Developing Conflict Resilient Workplaces
- Managing Poor Behaviour in the Workplace
Handling an Employee’s Grievance
The grievance review process has three stages:
The relevant person within the public sector body (generally the Grievance Registrar) assesses the grievance review request to determine whether it will be accepted or declined and provides advice and support to the parties involved.
Additional Information for Public Service Employers
Public service employers may only decline to review a grievance in accordance with regulation 6(8)(a) of the Public Administration (Review of Actions) Regulations 2015, noting that for selection grievances, the definition of ‘lacking in substance’ under regulation 6(2)(g)(i) should be considered alongside s 64(2) of the Public Administration Act 2004.
If the Grievance Registrar accepts the review request, it will be referred to an independent review officer for review.
Choosing a Review Officer
It is good practice to engage an external person to conduct the grievance review. However, if a review officer is internal to the organisation, they need to be independent of the parties to avoid actual or apparent bias.
The VPSC maintains the Register of Review Officers to enable public sector employers to access independent review officers to conduct workplace grievance reviews and misconduct investigations on their behalf.
The review officer will provide a report on their findings to the employer who will inform the employee of the outcome.
It is good practice to provide a copy of the review report to the employee to ensure transparency of the decision-making process.
For more information regarding the review report, see the Review of Actions Report Template.