Recognising an employment relationship problem
A problem includes anything that harms or that may harm an employment relationship. While the most obvious relationship is between an employer and an employee, other examples are relationships among employees, between a union and its members, between a union and an employer, and among unions covering employees in the same workplace.
Examples of problems from an employer’s perspective include allegations of:
- poor performance or unacceptable behaviour
- lateness and absenteeism
- long-term illnesses
- failure to comply with health and safety procedures
- breaches of company policy or the law
- conflict between employees
Problems from an employee’s perspective can include allegations of:
- discrimination or harassment
- disagreement about whether a warning should be issued
- problems with health and safety
- disagreement about the meaning of a term in an employment agreement
- misunderstood or poorly managed discipline, dismissals, redundancies or restructuring
- disputes over holidays or pay (including deductions from pay).
Some of these problems may be the basis of “personal grievances”, which require specific treatment under the Employment Relations Act. (See later.)
A number of staff in the same workplace may perceive the same problem. If so, it can help to deal with the problems collectively and to look for a solution that works for everyone. Where the employees are union members, their union can play an important part in representing their collective interests and agreeing on a sustainable solution.
Whether a problem involves an individual or a group, it is important for everyone to:
- deal with the issue as soon as it arises
- take the time to get the facts straight
- listen to everyone’s views
- seek solutions
- follow a fair process that everyone understands
- record actions and expectations.