Workplace complaint management refers to the processes and procedures employers and organisations use to address and resolve employee complaints or grievances. In Australia, employees have the right to raise complaints and grievances about their employment. Complaints are a general expression of dissatisfaction or concern with a work related experience or process, while grievances tend to be more serious matters relating to workplace rights, and often involve a more formal process that follows a defined procedure and may involve legal action if necessary (Australian Human Rights Commission). Employers are legally obligated to provide a fair and transparent process for resolving grievances and protect employees from any retaliation for raising a grievance (Fair Work Act 2009).
Many employers have internal complaints or grievance procedures in place that employees can use. However, there is no secret that employees avoid lodging complaints or grievances in the workplace due to fear of retaliation, damage to career prospects, and lack of confidence in the process. This can result in employers being entirely unaware of workforce dissatisfaction, areas for improvement or problematic (and at times, illegal) conduct.
An International Bar Association survey revealed that a significant proportion of bullying and sexual harassment cases go unreported, with 57% of bullying cases and 75% of sexual harassment cases never reported. Employees may not know the proper channels for reporting misconduct, find reporting difficult or fear retaliation or a negative reputation. Additionally, some targets may not believe that they will be taken seriously or that the incident will be considered sufficiently serious. The challenge is to find ways to encourage victims to feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment and to remove the barriers to making initial allegations. Technological solutions may offer an avenue for doing so.
While there is no legal requirement for organisations in Australia to have aneffective, tech-based whistleblower platform, having one can be an effective tool for promoting an ethical culture in the workplace. Ethics hotlines provide employees with a convenient and anonymous way to report any suspected wrongdoing or unethical behaviour without fear of retaliation. This can help to identify and address issues early on before they escalate and cause greater harm to the organisation or its stakeholders.
Moreover, having an effective whistleblower service can help to build trust between employees and management, as it shows that business leaders are committed to creating a culture of honesty and accountability. By demonstrating that they take ethical concerns seriously, organisations can foster a sense of transparency and openness that encourages employees to speak up when they see something wrong.
While an effective whistleblower service is not a substitute for a comprehensive ethics and compliance program, it can be a valuable component of such a program. In addition to providing a reporting mechanism for ethical concerns, an ethics hotline can help identify trends and patterns in reported incidents, which can inform training and other preventative measures.
WISE workplace understands that an effective whistleblower service is essential to ensure your organisation has an accessible pathway for employees to report their concerns confidentially. WISE workplace can assist you in building and developing your resources to ensure your organisation is well-prepared with fundamental governance resources to rely upon in any complaint process.
For more information about our whistleblowing management services, see WISE Workplace – Grapevine
Australian Human Rights Commission, Complaints: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/complaints
Davis, M. (2019). Whistleblowing. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.
Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth): https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00123
Fair Work Ombudsman: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/
International Bar Association. (2019). Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession. Retrieved from https://www.ibanet.org/human-rights-institute/IBA-HRI-Us_Too-Bullying_and_Sexual_Harassment-in-the-Legal-Profession-2019.pdf
For more information about the services and support available from Wise Workplace, reach out to our team on [email protected].