Managing Employee Complaints

Version Number

2.1

Implementation Date

5/08/2016

Scope

Department-wide

Purpose

​From time to time, an employee may consider that an administrative decision or the behaviour of others in the workplace is unfair or unreasonable. It is the department’s expectation that the employee will make all reasonable attempts to resolve the matter informally either individually or with the assistance of their local supervisor/manager. However, where this does not result in satisfactory resolution, the employee may pursue the matter through a more formal process.

The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that such employee complaints are appropriately addressed and managed efficiently and effectively in reaching a resolution for all parties involved. This procedure provides information to managers and employees regarding the processes to be followed when managing employee complaints, focussing on the management and resolution of workplace issues at the local level.

Overview

​This procedure covers employee complaints where the employee has an honest belief based upon reasonable grounds that:

  • An administrative decision is unfair or unreasonable or
  • The conduct or behaviour of an employee, agent or contractor is unfair or unreasonable or constitutes workplace harassment or sexual harassment; and
  • The decision, conduct, or behaviour has a substantial and direct adverse effect on the employee concerned.

Employee complaints that cannot be satisfactorily resolved informally are managed and resolved through:

  • local action (the first stage of a formal employee complaints process)
  • internal review of a decision made through local action (the second stage) 
  • external review of a decision made at internal review (the third stage)

Please note that there will be instances where the behaviour of another employee represents a breach of the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service (the Code) and/or the departmental Standard of Practice in support of the Code. In such circumstances, it may not be appropriate for the matters to be resolved at the workplace level. Matters of suspected misconduct are to be referred to the department’s Ethical Standards Unit for assessment in the first instance before any resolution strategies are employed.

Similarly, this procedure does not affect an employee’s right to pursue complaints of an industrial relations nature through the dispute resolution procedures outlined in the applicable industrial awards and agreements. Please note the timeframes for dispute resolution procedures vary from the timeframes applicable under this managing employee complaints procedure.

Responsibilities

​Employee:

  • Raise issue verbally and make genuine and reasonable attempts to resolve the matter informally without the need for a formal employee complaint process
  • Where a matter cannot be resolved informally, may lodge an employee complaint in writing to the relevant manager in accordance with this procedure (unless the employee’s complaint is directly about the Director-General wherein the employee complaint should be lodged with the Public Service Commission’s Chief Executive)
  • Make an employee complaint as soon as reasonably possible after the administrative decision, alleged conduct or alleged behaviour occurs
  • Ensure the complaint includes sufficient information to enable the department to take appropriate action and outline the action they believe would resolve the complaint 
  • Respect the confidentiality of the process and its outcomes
  • Continue with work as it was before the employee complaint was submitted except in the case of a genuine safety issue
  • Comply with relevant legislation, directives, departmental policies and procedures including the Code of Conduct and Standard of Practice
  • Engage in the employee complaint management and resolution process in good faith
  • May request a support person accompany them during the employee complaint process, but the support person must not act in a representative capacity
  • Must not unreasonably withhold agreement for extension of time to resolve the employee complaint and/or complete any request for internal review
  • If dissatisfied with the decision made through local action, may seek internal review, in writing, by the Director-General. A written request for an internal review must: 
    • be received by the Director-General within 14 days of the employee receiving a copy of the decision made through local action
    • clearly state the reasons for dissatisfaction with the decision made through local action, and not merely state a belief that the decision made through local action was unfair or unreasonable, and 
    • clearly state the action the employee believes would resolve the employee complaint. 
  • If dissatisfied with the decision made at internal review, may make an application for an external review
  • May appeal if it can be demonstrated that it would be unreasonable in the circumstances to comply fully with this employee complaints procedure.

Supervisor/Manager:

  • Proactively identify and effectively manage workplace issues
  • Deal expeditiously with disagreements or issues that may cause conflict (including interpersonal conflict) so difficulties may be resolved informally where possible
  • Initiate local action to promote resolution of issues raised verbally in an attempt to resolve the matter informally without the need for a formal employee complaint process
  • Where issues cannot be resolved informally, ensure formal  employee complaints are managed in accordance with this procedure
  • Ensure employees are aware of  their entitlement to a support person during the complaint process
  • Ensure employees are aware of the professional counselling services available to all employees
  • Ensure normal work continues except in the case of a genuine safety issue, or where doing so would create a substantial financial or legal liability to the department
  • Ensure that employee complaints are dealt with in a fair, impartial and unbiased manner and that the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice are applied
  • Manage employee complaints in a manner that maintains confidentiality and protects privacy
  • Deal with multiple employee complaints about related matters simultaneously wherever possible
  • Engage in the employee complaint management and resolution process in good faith
  • Provide the employee complainant with regular and timely information in relation to the progress of the employee complaint
  • Ensure appropriate documentation is maintained in relation to formal employee complaint 
  • Comply with relevant directives, legislation and departmental policy as listed in this procedure
  • Take action to resolve the employee complaint in accordance with this procedure, which may include, but is not limited to:
    • conducting preliminary enquiries to determine appropriate options for resolution of the employee complaint 
    • facilitated discussion, mediation, conciliation or negotiation
    • investigation 
    • or other reasonable action in the circumstances
  • If reasonably satisfied that the employee complaint is frivolous or vexatious, or that the employee complaint does not meet the definition of an employee complaint, or the employee unreasonably refuses to participate in local action to resolve the employee complaint:
    • determine whether to take no further action in relation to the employee complaint and
    • provide written decision to the employee
  • If satisfied that grounds for an employee complaint exist, take action to resolve the employee complaint, within 21 days of receipt of the complaint unless: 
    • the timeframe has been extended by mutual agreement between the parties (a party to the employee complaint is not to unreasonably withhold their agreement) 
    • the department can demonstrate that reasonable attempts have been made to progress the employee complaint, or 
    • the employee complaint has been notified directly to the commission chief executive
    • Note: if a decision is not made within the required timeframe, the department is taken to have confirmed the decision which formed the basis of the initial employee complaint and the employee complainant may make a request to the Director-General for an internal review.
  • At the completion of local action to resolve an employee complaint, provide a written decision to the employee complainant. The decision must:
    • detail the action taken to manage the employee complaint and the outcome of this action
    • detail the reasons for the decision 
    • detail any action that the department will take, or proposes to take, as a result of the decision, and 
    • be capable of review.

Director-General (or delegate):

  • Conduct necessary enquiries to determine whether the decision made through local action was fair and reasonable in the circumstances 
  • If the reasons for seeking internal review are not sufficient, or it is considered that the request for internal review is frivolous or vexatious, or the employee unreasonably refused to participate in local action to resolve the employee complaint:
    • determine whether to take no further action in relation to the request for internal review and
    • provide written advice to the employee  
  • If satisfied that grounds for an internal review exist, take action to ensure review of the decision made through local action as soon as possible but within 14 days of receipt of a written request from an employee for internal review unless: 
    • the timeframe has been extended by mutual agreement between the parties (a party to the employee complaints is not to unreasonably withhold their agreement) or
    • the Director-General or delegate can demonstrate that reasonable attempts have been made to progress the employee complaints
    • Note: If a decision is not made in relation to the internal review within the required timeframe, the Director-General is taken to have confirmed the decision made through local action and the employee complainant may make an application for external review.

       

  • Provide a written decision to the employee who made the written request for internal review. This decision must: 
    • detail the action taken to review the decision made through local action; 
    • detail the reasons for the internal review decision; 
    • detail any action that the Director-General or delegate will take, or proposes to take, as a detail result of the internal review; and 
    • be capable of review.

Process

Online Resources

Review Date

1/01/2013
Attribution CC BY

Administrative decision
A decision made by the agency in relation to the administration of its affairs and includes the failure to make a decision within a specified timeframe where applicable.

Agency
A department or public service office as defined in sections 7 and 21 of the Public Service Act 2008 (Qld).

Employee complainant
The employee who has made an employee complaint.

Employee complaint
A complaint made by a current public service employee who has an honest belief based on reasonable grounds that: 

  • an administrative decision is unfair or unreasonable, or 
  • the conduct or behaviour of an employee, agent or contractor is unfair or unreasonable or constitutes sexual harassment or workplace harassment, and
  • the decision, conduct or behaviour has a substantial and direct adverse effect on the employee concerned.

The following decisions cannot be the subject of an employee complaint:

  • a decision about the policy, strategy, nature, scope, resourcing or direction of a public service agency 
  • a decision to discipline 
  • a decision to retire an employee on the grounds of ill-health under chapter 5, part 7 of the Public Service Act 2008 (Qld), or 
  • a decision that is the subject of another complaint by the same employee whether under this managing employee complaints procedure or other industrial instrument.

External review
The employee who made the initial employee complaint may make an application for an external review of the decision if they are dissatisfied with the internal review (refer to the Public Service Commission Directive 02/14 Appeals). 

Avenues for the external review of decisions may include, but are not limited to, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) Appeals Officer, the Queensland Ombudsman, or the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ). Please note that seeking external review through one of the authorities above may disqualify you from referring the same matter to another review body.

Internal review 
A process where an employee complainant is dissatisfied with the decision made through local action, the employee may make a request to Director-General for an internal review.

Local action
Includes making necessary enquiries to ascertain the facts of the matter; supporting and assisting staff to resolve the matter informally by acting as a channel for communication; providing guidance and clarification in respect to operational issues that may relate to the issues being raised; and advising staff of the formal processes for employee complaint resolution.

Misconduct is either:

(a)  inappropriate or improper conduct in an official capacity; or
(b)  inappropriate or improper conduct in a private capacity that reflects seriously and adversely on the public service.

Official misconduct is conduct that could, if proved, be:

(a)  a criminal offence; or
(b)  a disciplinary breach providing reasonable grounds for terminating the person’s services, if the person is or was the holder of an appointment.

Professional counselling service
The confidential, free assistance available to all departmental employees. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a specialised service providing confidential short-term counselling and support for all employees on a range of personal and work related issues. The service is provided by Optum and is available by calling 1800 604 640 to arrange a counselling session at a convenient time and location.

Sexual harassment
Defined in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) happens if a person: 

(a) subjects another person to an unsolicited act of physical intimacy; or
(b) makes an unsolicited demand or request (whether directly or by implication) for sexual favours from the other person; or
(c) makes a remark with sexual connotations relating to the other person; or
(d) engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the other person;

and the person engaging in the conduct described in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) does so—

(e) with the intention of offending, humiliating or intimidating the other person; or
(f) in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct.

Workplace harassment 
Repeated behaviour towards an employee, other than behaviour amounting to sexual harassment, by a supervisor, co-employee or group of co-employees of the person that: 

  • is repeated, unwelcome and unsolicited; and
  • the person considers to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening; and
  • a reasonable person would consider to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening.

Workplace harassment is not: 

  • a single incident of harassing type behaviour; 
  • reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way;
  • acts of unlawful discrimination, vilification or sexual harassment.​