Workplace Grievance Examples

An employee may raise a workplace grievance with their employer if they have suffered an alleged violation of their rights or entitlements due to the conduct or decsions of another person. It may relate to a breach of law, standards, awards, agreements or workplace policies, which the employee considers unjustified, unfair, or unreasonable.

Workplace Grievance Examples

Workplace grievance examples can assist people to understand what a grievance is and how to resolve them.


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Workplace Grievance Examples

Workplace grievance examples can assist people to understand what a grievance is and how to resolve them.

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View our growing library of articles and webinars, which are accessible no matter the time of day or night.

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To understand whether this firm can assist you, Anderson Legal provides a free, no-obligation initial consultation.

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Workplace Grievance Examples

There are many actions, omissions, and decisions in a workplace that may give rise to a workplace grievance .
This section deals with the following:

Workplace Grievance Examples

There are many actions, omissions, and decisions in a workplace that may give rise to a workplace grievance .
This section deals with the following:

Meaning of “Workplace Grievance”

What is a ‘workplace grievance’?

The term ‘workplace grievance’ is used to refer to situations when an employee has suffered an alleged violation of their rights or entitlements because of the conduct or decisions of another person in a workplace. Generally, it will relate to a breach of law, standards, an award, agreement or workplace policy. If the action or decision by one person causes detriment to an employee which they consider unjustified, unfair, or unreasonable, they may raise a workplace grievance with their employer.

Who can raise a grievance?

A grievance may really come from any source, but they are often made by one employee against another employee. A business or organisation should consider widening any grievance policy to include as many people as may be appropriate for its workplace. For instance, a grievance policy may make clear that a grievance may be raised by or apply to:

  • employees;
  • contractors and sub-contractors;
  • volunteers;
  • interns; and,
  • work experience students.

How is a grievance raised with an employer?

A workplace grievance may be raised in a number of ways. If the business or organisation has a complaint and grievance policy, it will likely set out the principles and procedures adopted to resolve workplace grievances. Some workplaces may require a grievance to be put in writing, although that is often a function of a business being interested in records being precise about such issues. A grievance may be raised verbally.

It is important that businesses not be too prescriptive about the form of a grievance. A complaint may reveal information that must be acted upon in the interests of the health and safety of others. It may also pose significant reputational risks to one or more individuals, and even the business or organisation itself, which is why grievances are often handled with sensitivity.

Why is it important to raise grievances?

There are reasons both employers and employees should wish to see grievances being appropriately raised and resolved.

For employers, aside from the general interest of a business or organisation in complying with workplace laws and promoting a positive work culture, there is sound financial reason to properly address grievances. A Harvard Business School study in 2015 entitled ‘Toxic Workers’ showed that an employee with conduct or capacity issues may have, on average, a greater negative financial impact than the positive impact of a ‘star’ employee. As such, there is good business for an employer sense in efficiently addressing complaints and grievances amongst employees.

For an employee who lodges a grievance, it is often motivated by a desire to be treated respectfully and fairly. In raising a grievance in the workplace, employees ought to be protected by their employer from reprisal action. There are consequences under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) for taking adverse action against an employee who has exercised a workplace right. Moreover, there are specific laws that protect whistleblowers who make complaints of various kinds. For this reason, any employer or employee dealing with a workplace grievance ought to obtain expert legal advice and guidance to ensure they understand both their rights and responsibilities.


Workplace Grievance Examples

There are many ways a workplace grievance may arise in a workplace. Generally, a grievance will relate to the actions, omissions, or decisions of another employee, whether or not they are a manager. The seriousness of the grievance may affect the initial response of an employer, even before an investigation can take place, due to potential health and safety risks or other issues associated with serious misconduct.

Examples of why a grievance may be raised in a workplace include:

  1. Bullying
  2. Conditions of employment
  3. Discrimination
  4. Sexual harassment
  5. Wages and benefits
  6. Work health and safety issues

1. Bullying grievances

Workplace bullying can cause serious harm to those affected by it. It may occur because of conduct that is aggressive, belittling, humiliating or intimidating. While victimisation and exclusion may be obvious forms of bullying, more complex issues arise in other situations, such as with practical jokes.

Individuals and businesses ought to be aware of the definition of when a worker is bullied at work in section 789FD(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). It states:

When is a worker bullied at work?

  1. A worker is bullied at work if:
    1. while the worker is at work in a constitutionally-covered business:
      • an individual; or
      • a group of individuals;
    2. repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards the worker, or a group of workers of which the worker is a member; and
    3. that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

    Anderson Legal provides advice to employers and employees dealing with bullying issues, which includes advice and representation to people who believe they have been unfairly or falsely accused of bullying at work.

    2. Workload grievances

    Excessive workloads or unreasonable work expectations may be the source of grievances for some employees, particularly when they feel it is a form of bullying by a manager. In other situations, workload grievances may arise because a business has lost an employee and so others are tasked to pick up their work, or there is an increased workload due to redundancies.

    Employers must be cautious when addressing workload grievances. While businesses and organisations endeavour to have their employees work productively and efficiently, a balance must be struck whereby the health and safety of workers is not put under unreasonable strain. When an employer ignores workload grievances, they can open themselves up to many different claims and actions.

    3. Discrimination grievances

    Discrimination can take many forms in a workplace:

    • Age discrimination
    • Disability discrimination
    • Gender discrimination
    • Pregnancy discrimination
    • Racial discriminaton
    • Religious discrimination

    While some forms of discrimination are lawful, discrimination grievances may be grounded in anti-discrimination laws that exist across Australia. Employers must be careful to address discrimination grievances, given the harm that can be suffered because of discrimination. Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), it is possible for courts to impose civil penalties (fines) on individuals or corporations found to have discriminated against someone in breach of the law. Successful claimants may also be awarded compensation for the discrimination they have suffered.

    4. Sexual harassment grievances

    Grievances relating to sexual harassment are serious in nature.

    Across Australia, there are different laws that define sexual harassment, although there are commonalities amongst them. One definition of ‘sexual harassment’, found in section 28A(1) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), states:

    Meaning of sexual harassment

    1. For the purposes of this Division, a person sexually harasses another person (the person harassed ) if:
      1. the person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed; or
      2. engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed;

        in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

      This definition requires an assessment of all relevant circumstances, including the sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, religious belief, race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, of the person harassed. It also requires consideration of the relationship between the person allegedly harassed and the person who is accused of making the advance or request or who engaged in the conduct.

      Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), the meaning of “conduct of a sexual nature” includes making a statement of a sexual nature to a person, or in the presence of a person, whether the statement is made orally or in writing.

      A similar definition of sexual harassment is found in section 119 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld), which applies to Queensland-based issues and complaints brought under its anti-discrimination laws.

      Generally, Australian laws define sexual harassment as involving:

      • Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature;
      • The conduct leaves the person feeling offended, humiliated or intimidated; and,
      • The reaction of the person is reasonable in the circumstances.

      If any part or element of the meaning of sexual harassment cannot be established, then the allegation cannot be substantiated. Anderson Legal provides advice to employers and employees dealing with sexual harassment issues, which includes advice and representation to people who seek to make a complaint that they have been sexually harassed, or believe they have been unfairly or falsely accused of sexual harassment at work.

      5. Wages and benefits grievances

      Employees who have concerns over their wages and benefits, or pay and conditions, may raise a grievance or complaint to see if the matter can be resolved. When issues relating to wages and benefits are ongoing, they can become so problematic that it leaves an employee no choice but to resign. In such circumstances, an employee may bring a claim against their employer for constructive dismissal, as occurred in McKay v Astro Aero Pty Ltd [2022] FWC 170, in which the Applicant was paid late each month for seven months before resigning. In that case, Deputy President Lake stated at paragraph [65]:

      The payment of wages monthly is a basic requirement under the Act. Indeed, that the return of effort is to be paid according to the with the employment contract and any other applicable industrial instrument is fundamental to the employment relationship. By frequently not complying with that agreement, the Respondent indicated that they were not going to live up to the contract between themselves and the Applicant. One or two momentary and short-lived occurrences of late payment may be accepted by parties engaged in a start-up or new organisation. Employees may be more forgiving if that occurred once or twice and was met with deep apologies and quick rectification. However, this is not such a case. This matter involved an egregious non-compliance with an employer’s obligation to pay their employees in accordance with their entitlements over a significant period.

      6. Work health and safety grievances

      Under work health and safety laws in Australia, businesses and business operators, executive officers and employees all have duties to ensure a safe working environment. Given the law requires individuals and businesses to ensure a safe working environment, work health and safety grievances must always be taken seriously by those who receive them.

      Anderson Legal provides advice to employers and employees dealing with grievances or complaints relating to work health and safety issues, including with respect to investigations by work health and safety inspectors.


      Workplace Grievance Policy

      An effective grievance policy allows a business to clearly define the rights and responsibilities of employees to raise issues in the workplace that may affect their safety and wellbeing or productivity. It sets a tone for workplace culture, which can help to minimise the reputation and financial risks associated with ineffective or inapt complaints handling processes.

      The absence of a grievance policy does not prevent employees from raising complaints or grievances. However, without guidance from the business or organisation, managers and workers may respond to situations differently. In some cases, the absence of a grievance policy or its implementation may heighten the risk of an employer being found vicariously liable for harm caused in the workplace.

      Anderson Legal has the expertise to advise businesses, executives and employees on their rights and obligations with respect to grievances in the workplace. It has the capacity to assist businesses to draft grievance policies that are adapted to the specific needs of the workplace.


      Anderson Legal provides comprehensive employment law services to businesses, executives, employees and public sector workers. If you are dealing with an issue involving workplace grievances or complaints and require expert advice or representation, Anderson Legal tailors its services to the needs of every client. This includes:

      • providing advice relating to allegations, grievances, and complaints;
      • advising clients on options relating to disciplinary processes;
      • drafting policy documents, including grievance handling policies;
      • resolving, where appropriate, grievances and complaints through negotiation;
      • representing clients during workplace investigations and disciplinary processes; and,
      • filing, litigating, and defending claims and applications on behalf of our clients.

      This firm places an emphasis on providing clear guidance so that our clients are placed in a real position to make informed decisions about their options and the preferred path forward. Anderson Legal provides clear, transparent disclosure of its legal costs at every stage.

      Anderson Legal has the expertise and experience to provide comprehensive employment law services to individuals and businesses. If you need an employment lawyer, there are many reasons why Anderson Legal should be your preferred choice:

      • Having successfully represented litigants in the High Court of Australia, Royal Commissions, Fair Work Commission, and multiple other courts dealing with trials and other hearings, Andrew Anderson, Legal Director, has a demonstrated record of success in complex and difficult cases.
      • Andrew Anderson has been independently described by the Courier Mail as “one of the best legal minds” and a “leading corporate and white-collar crime lawyer” (16 December 2021). He is an experienced lawyer who is passionate about resolving employment law issues in the interests of his clients.
      • Prior to operating a law firm, Andrew Anderson worked as a Principal Crown Prosecutor in Queensland and barrister in private practice at 8 Petrie Terrace Chambers in Brisbane. His depth of courtroom advocacy experience ranges from straightforward cases right through to complex trials and appeals.
      • Anderson Legal is a law firm that is dedicated to the best ideals of the legal profession. Seeking to exceed client expectations and fighting for justice is an everyday pursuit.

      The potential impact of disciplinary processes on reputations, relationships, and livelihoods makes it essential to have an employment lawyer who is equal to the task. If you are a business operator, executive, employee or public servant who needs advice regarding grievances in the workplace, contact Anderson Legal.

      Limitations on general information

      Each legal issue is unique. The information on this page and website cannot – and is not meant to – substitute legal consultation. It is designed to outline information of a general nature for people seeking to learn more about grievance and complaint handling processes, particularly as it relates to employers and employees in Australia. Anybody dealing with an employment law issue ought to obtain expert legal advice and guidance as soon as possible.

      No content accessible on the website is created to provide specific legal answers or advice. It is designed to provide general information about legal matters and related concepts. It should not be used as, or in substitute of, your own legal advice or other advice as appropriate.

      To the extent allowed by law, no warranty, condition, or guarantee is provided in relation to the accuracy or reliability of any information contained on this site. Content may be changed from time to time without notice.

      If you are dealing with an issue related to workplace grievances and need advice and representation, contact Anderson Legal. This firm provides expert advice and representation for people needing assistance to understand their legal rights, obligations, and options.

      For more information, read our Terms of Use

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      Unfairly Accused of Workplace BullyingMany people who face bullying complaints at work are managers in one form or another. However described, executives, managers, or small business owners all have as part of their role the task of managing the conduct and performance of others. It is not uncommon for performance management issues to lead to allegations of bullying.Viewemployment-law workplace-bullyingfalse-allegations
      Workplace Investigation OptionsThe different types of workplace investigations reflect the differing needs employers have in investigating issues in the workplace. Understanding the role and purpose of different types of workplace investigations is critical for business operators and managers, as inapt investigations can lead to unnecessary disputes.Viewdisciplinary-processes workplace-investigationsworkplace-investigations
      Managing Employee Recruitment Risks – AustraliaThe legal risks for employers during recruitment processes are not always fully considered until an issue emerges. Risks are present at every stage of the recruitment process, from the nature of the role itself to advertising, interviewing, selecting, and agreeing on an employment contract.Viewemployment-contractsrecruitment
      Steps in Workplace InvestigationsThe steps in workplace investigations relate to procedural fairness. In Australia, disciplinary decisions based on unfair workplace investigations may be challenged and decisions reversed. The risk of an unfair workplace investigation derailing a disciplinary process may be minimised by early advice from an experienced employment lawyer.Viewdisciplinary-processes workplace-investigationsworkplace-investigations
      Summary DismissalExcept in cases of serious misconduct, most employers are required to give notice to employees if they are dismissed from their job. The applicable notice period can vary based on the length of service, age of the employee, and may be extended by agreement under an employment contract.Viewdisciplinary-processes employment-contractssummary-dismissal
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      Responding to a Workplace Investigation into Bullying ComplaintsFacing a workplace investigation into a workplace bullying complaint can leave people feeling stressed, uncertain and isolated. Getting informed about how you may respond to a workplace bullying complaint, as well as your rights, responsibilities and options is essential for anybody facing an issue of this kind.Viewworkplace-bullying workplace-investigationsworkplace-bullying workplace-investigations
      Responding to a Workplace Investigation into Sexual HarassmentSexual harassment complaints often result in formal workplace investigations. Generally, Australian laws define sexual harassment as involving (1) unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; (2) the conduct leaves the person feeling offended, humiliated or intimidated; and, (3) the reaction of the person is reasonable in the circumstances.Viewsexual-harassment workplace-investigationssexual-harassment workplace-investigations
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      Workplace Grievance ExamplesAn employee may raise a workplace grievance with their employer if they have suffered an alleged violation of their rights or entitlements due to the conduct or decisions of another person. It may relate to a breach of law, standards, awards, agreements or workplace policies, which the employee considers unjustified, unfair, or unreasonable.Viewdisciplinary-processesgrievances procedure
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      Grievance Handling PolicyA grievance policy explains the process and procedure followed by a business or organisation to resolve grievances or complaints against an employee. A grievance handling policy ought to outline the standard procedures for expeditiously resolving complaints and set out the rights and responsibilities of employees at every level.Viewdisciplinary-processesgrievances procedure

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