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Personal Grievances

Personal Grievances

Raising a personal grievance is something you can do when there is a problem in your employment. It’s a formal legal step that tells your employer you have a problem that you want them to fix.

Remember that raising a personal grievance is a formal legal step against your employer. There’s a danger that it might upset them and affect your relationship with them. Before you raise a personal grievance, it might be a good idea to try to talk to your employer about the problem, and give them a chance to fix it before you take it further legally. Whenever you’re dealing with your employer, you should remember that as well as them treating you fairly, you also have to treat them fairly too, and act in ‘good faith’. This means communicating with them properly and trying to deal with any issues before they get worse.

What is a personal grievance?

A “personal grievance” is a legal claim you can bring against your employer if you think they’ve treated you illegally or unfairly. You can use the personal grievance process if your employer has dismissed you unfairly or done something you think is unjustified, such as suspending you, giving you a written warning, paying you less than agreed, demoting you without a good reason or a fair process to name a few.

A personal grievance is also available for some other reasons such as discrimination and sexual harassment.

When can I raise a personal grievance?

If you bring an employment legal action against your employer, it is called raising a personal grievance.

You may be able to raise a personal grievance for:

  • ‘Unjustified disadvantage’, if your employer treats you unfairly.
  • ‘Unjustified dismissal’, if your employer fires you without a good reason or proper process.
  • ‘Discrimination’, if you’re treated differently or unfairly for an ‘illegal reason’.
  • Racial harassment’ or ‘sexual harassment‘.

If your problem is discrimination or harassment, you can choose to complain to the Human Rights Commission OR take a personal grievance to the Employment Relations Authority. You have to make a choice, you can’t choose both.

How do I raise a personal grievance?

The usual way of raising a personal grievance is by writing a letter to your employer within 90 days of something going wrong, and telling them that you’re raising a personal grievance. The letter needs to explain why you’re raising the personal grievance, including the background and all the facts about what happened. The letter should also say why you think the employer’s actions are illegal and what you want the employer to do to fix the problem.

If you need some advice on whether you should be raising a personal grievance, call YouthLaw, or your local community law centre.

What happens after I raise a personal grievance?

Your employer must investigate and take all practicable steps to resolve your complaint.

If you’ve raised a personal grievance with your employer, and you’re not satisfied with their response, a free mediation service is available to help resolve the problem at MBIE. If mediation doesn’t work, you can consider taking a case to the Employment Relations Authority, but there are risks in going.

Can I raise a personal grievance while on a trial period?

You can’t bring a personal grievance for being dismissed during a valid trial period, but you can bring a personal grievance for other issues, e.g. sexual harassment, discrimination, disadvantage, and racial harassment.

What type of remedies can I get from a personal grievance?

  • Reinstatement: to be placed back in your previous job position or in a position that’s no less disadvantageous to you. The Authority can also order that you be reinstated temporarily (interim reinstatement) until it decides your case.
  • Reimbursement: for lost wages or money: order the employer to reimburse you for money which you should have earned, but was not paid i.e. missing wages.
  • Compensation: order your employer to pay you compensation for:
    – the way in which you’ve been affected personally, such as humiliation, loss of dignity, or injury to feelings;
    – the loss of any benefits that you might otherwise have expected to get in the near future.
  • Other reasonable recommendations.

What happens after I write a personal grievance letter?

If you can’t work things out with your employer directly, you can invite them to a free mediation run by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Mediation is voluntary – so you can’t force your employer to attend, and you’re not required to attend, but most employers agree as it is more efficient than taking the next step.

If you can’t work things out at mediation, you could try going to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), but you should consider these things:

– there is a filing fee of $71.56;
– if you lose your case, you could end up paying a part of your employer’s legal costs (and your own);
– ERA cases are public and information about the case will be publicly available to everyone.

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