How to respond to a personal grievance claim by an ex-employee

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Personal Grievance from EmployeeHave you just received a personal grievance from an ex-employee? Don’t know how to respond? It would pay to get some initial advice from an employment lawyer. 

In their haste to defend a claim by an employee, employers can often make the situation worse for themselves and their business by providing the employee with more ammunition in pursuing his/her grievance. How you respond to a grievance can also affect the remedies awarded if the matter ends up in the Employment Relations Authority.

An experienced employment lawyer can help you identify whether the grievance meets certain legal requirements (including whether it was raised during the 90 day timeframe) and where your risks may lie. At this stage it will be important to review and provide advice on any relevant correspondence, meeting minutes and/or statements that relate to the employee’s termination (whether for reasons of performance, misconduct or redundancy) to ensure there was an appropriate reason for dismissal and a proper process was followed.

Even if you had a good reason for dismissal,, if you have followed the proper process then you could be in breach of your legal obligations as an employer.  This could mean you could be liable for compensation for lost wages and/or hurt and humiliation.

It is important that anyone advising you considers what the appropriate strategy is for you and your business. A similar grievance faced by two employers may require two quite different approaches.  A skilled lawyer can assist you in recognising any emotion arising from the situation and provide you with practical advice on the options for your business.

The response to the employee could be as simple as satisfying your legal obligations by providing the employee and/or their representative with reasons for dismissal and a copy of the employee’s employment agreement or it could be positioning your reasons and decision to dismiss in the best light possible.

If initial discussions are not able to resolve the grievance one of our employment specialists can talk you through your options in whether you attempt to negotiate settlement through representatives, opt for mediation or defend the claim in the Employment Relations Authority.

If the grievance does go to mediation a skilled employment lawyer can assist in the preparation including: advising you on the legal framework, your best and worse case scenario if the matter were to be heard in the Authority and the weaknesses of the employee’s case.

Smith and Partners can represent you in person at the mediation or be available on the phone to advise you on the cost/benefits of settling the matter or proceeding to the Authority. We can assist you in negotiating a settlement that incorporates protections for your company as well as for the employee.

In the majority of cases employees are represented by advocates who charge on a “no win, no fee” basis. What this means is that given the advocate is wearing the up front costs involved it is unlikely that an employee who has raised a grievance will go away if you ignore it.  

The key to minimising disruption to your business is to seek advice early on. 

 

In accordance with our obligations under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, we cannot provide legal advice unless you have become a client of Smith and Partners and have received our Terms & Conditions of Engagement and Info for Clients.

 If you would like advice on any employment law related matters, please contact Suzanne Sumner, Personal Assistant to employment law expert, Carolyn Ranson to find out how you can become a client of Smith and Partners and to set up an appointment to discuss your employment matter with Carolyn.

 Suzanne Sumner

Ph: 09 837 6840

Email: Suzanne.sumner@smithpartners.co.nz

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 (Please note we do not offer no win – no fee payment arrangements)