getting it right when things go wrong

All relationships have their ups and downs and working relationships are no exception. Problems can arise from how an employee conducts him or herself, to their overall performance. How these issues are dealt with can represent the difference between a minor ‘blip’, and a bitter and prolonged struggle which can prove costly.

Effective dispute resolution can help employers to maintain good relationships with their employees by dealing with workplace issues at an early stage. Employees need to know their grievances will be taken seriously by an employer, and that the principle of fairness is maintained.

Disciplinary action may be required when an employee takes prolonged, unauthorised absences from work, or their behaviour is inconsistent with the code of conduct as set out by the organisation. Managers must be willing to address these issues as they arise, and handle any difficult conversations with employees in a professional manner.

Establishing clear and fair disciplinary and grievance procedures grievances help resolve any disputes quickly. Results of any internal investigations can vary from issuing a warning to immediate dismissal. In all cases, procedures must be followed to show that any decision made was fair and transparent. 

If an employee feels that the action taken against them has been unfair, they may take legal action through Fair Work. Employers will need to produce evidence of having robust procedures in place, and documented evidence such as meeting notes and copies of warnings to show that the decision was fair and reasonable under the circumstances. Disputes are brought before the Fair Work Commission to try to negotiate a compromise between both parties if required. If disputes cannot be resolved, the case could be taken to the Federal Court of Australia.

Note: disciplinary procedures should not be confused with performance management. Performance management deals with the continuous improvement and development of employees, whereas disciplinary procedures are taken once all performance management measures have been exhausted.

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