Avoiding Personal Grievance claims

One thing new and seasoned managers often fear is having a staff member raise a personal grievance against them.  We asked Rainey Collins Law Associate Jaenine Badenhorst for some ideas to support management avoid personal grievances.  The following advice was the response:

We would recommend that you do these key things to help avoid a personal grievance being raised against you/your business. 

 

  1. The first key thing to do is to hire the right candidate in the first instance. (Yes, we know that isn’t always easy)!  You want to make sure you have a robust interview and reference checking system in place.  You could also consider your existing team meeting the candidate to make sure there is a good personality fit.  There is also the possibility of a work trial or probation period, depending on the circumstances.

2.   Have a written employment agreement which clearly sets out the parties expectations (for instance about work hours, flexibility, responsibilities, reporting lines, raising problems, and so on).  It is helpful for these matters to be discussed beforehand, so that everyone is on the same page.  This helps to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.  Employee manuals can also be very helpful to cover more detailed rules and guidelines (for example internet use, health and safety, bullying and harassment, etc.).

3.   Keep accurate employee records and files.  This should cover hours worked, leave taken, superannuation or other agreed deductions, discussion around various work conditions and so on.  The employee file should also cover any issues with performance or misconduct (detailing fair processes followed, and outcomes reached). 

4.   Act in good faith towards each other (by being honest and approachable; as well as open and communicative).  Being a good employer, and having a relationship with employees where they feel free to raise issues early on is the best way to resolve problems before they turn into formal grievances.  Regular catch-ups (like weekly or monthly meetings) is a good way of checking in with employees, and letting them know if there are any issues with their conduct or performance. 

5.   Knowing your obligations around the law and the contract you have with your employee is also very important.  This way you are less likely to cause issues which will turn into grievances.  If you are unsure of your obligations, you should seek professional advice. 

Thanks Jaenine, we hope that helps managers of services who might be struggling with this issue. Following due process and keeping accurate records will also support why you have made decisions and how.  Even with the best processes in place, sometimes you cannot completing avoid a grievance but follow professional advice and you can certainly minimise risk of a claim against you or your organisation.

There will be further articles published here supplied by Rainey Collins Law in relation to supporting your employment processes.

Is the company email the employers property?

In simple terms, a work or company email is an employer’s property in the same way a direct dial phone number, phone (mobile and/or land line) and any other piece of equipment or resource is.  Therefore, as a matter of principle, the employer is entitled to have access to that email address as necessary in order to conduct its business activities.  Correspondingly, employees are obliged to co-operate with any request for access.

Where issues can arise is when an employee is allowed to use their work email for personal emails.  This can either be set out in policy or implicit.  In this case, care needs to be taken to ensure that personal emails are not read.  The access should be limited to ensuring the employer can access business related emails.

If an employee is objecting to providing access to their work email, you can address this by confirming that as a matter or principle the work email address is the employer’s property and you require access to all work emails.  Reinforce with the employee, you will not be reviewing personal emails and they can either forward those emails to their personal email address, delete them etc (as noted below).  However, you will require their password and access as needed.

If an employee continues to resist, inform them you will be making arrangements with your IT service provider to gain access to the work email and given their lack of co-operation, suspending their personal use until further notice.  If this step is required, it’s advisable to contact your employment law adviser first in order to ensure clear and succinct written communications are provided in respect of this step.

To avoid issues in the future, if there is no policy in place, or if there is a policy in place which does not address it, in the first instance all employees should be told that:

(a)       Any work assigned email address is for work purposes;

(b)       That where necessary you will require employees to provide access in order for you to ensure that email communications are dealt with as needed and to provide for business continuity;

(c)       Personal emails received at the work email address can be forwarded to a personal email address, deleted, flagged or moved into a separate folder so they remain private; and

(d)       A policy will be introduced to clarify email and internet access shortly, or recirculate the current policy (updated if/as needed).

Noting point (d), if there is no policy in place, it would also be timely to introduce an email and internet policy specifying how the internet and email facilities can and will be used.  Alternatively, if there is a policy, but it does not cover this situation, the policy should be updated.

Above article kindly contributed by: Dean Kilpatrick (Special Counsel – Employment), Anthony Harper Law,  For more information contact –  Email