At a glance: What are our legal rights and obligations if we have a dispute with an employee?
Disputes (or conflicts and grievances) sometimes arise between not-for-profit organisations and their employees or between two employees of a not-for-profit organisation. Disputes can occur for many reasons and need to be addressed quickly and appropriately so that they don't escalate.
When you manage a dispute, you must consider your legal obligations. Handling disputes is usually a human resources issue, but, especially if things go wrong or a dispute is mishandled, legal issues can arise.
We can't cover every possible dispute between your organisation and an employee, but some steps for handling disputes with employees are set out below, along with references to more information on disputes that commonly arise.
There is also detailed information on avoiding disputes at QUT wiki.
For specific information on effective dispute resolution involving employees, go to the Fair Work Ombudsman's resources on effective dispute resolution.
Warning! These pages only cover disputes with an employee or between employees.
For information on internal disputes that don't involve employees, go to PilchConnect's page on Handling conflict.
For information on disputes with volunteers go to Volunteering Victoria or to Volunteering Australia.
How do we deal with disputes with an employee?
Take it step by step...
1. What is the dispute about?
There are some legal issues that commonly arise in disputes with employees, including:
- Terms and conditions of employment
- Sexual harassment
- Bullying and occupational violence
- Family obligations and work
- Privacy, and
- Use of social media
Each issue is complex and you may need legal advice. PilchConnect has a page which provides an outline of each of these issues, go to:
2. Make file notes of conversations and incidents
Keep accurate and unbiased note and keep in mind that you may need to rely on these notes later, so be honest and only write what you would not be embarrassed to have someone else read.
3. If your organisation has insurance to cover a situation like this then notify the insurer immediately
If you later try to claim with your insurance company and didn't notify the insurer when the incident occurred, you may not be covered.
Often, insurance companies have a panel of lawyers to assist with specific legal issues and you will be referred to one of these.
If your insurer is unable to offer legal advice or you don't have insurance, you can contact us at PilchConnect for assistance.
4. Subject to the advice you receive, talk to your employee
Follow the advice of your insurance company or the legal expert assisting you.
If it's appropriate, arrange a meeting so that an independent person in your organisation can talk to your employee(s) about the problem, try to understand the situation and the facts and resolve the dispute.
This might resolve the problem.
Make your concerns clear, hear the different versions of events and outline the facts as you understand them.
Make it clear that you are trying to reach a resolution. If you can't finalise the matter internally fairly and quickly, consider mediation. For information go to our Information sheet Using mediation to resolve conflicts and disputes.
If you are considering terminating the employee's employment first consider your legal obligations and always give your employee a chance to be heard. For more information, go to PilchConnect's page on Termination.