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Employee grievances and disputes

Last updated May 2024

This chapter explains what grievances and disputes are, and outlines the associated legal risks and how to reduce your legal exposure.

What is a grievance?

Definition: Grievance

A grievance is a statement of complaint raised by an employee about something in the workplace with which they are unhappy.

Grievances usually relate to an issue arising out of the employment relationship. Examples of matters in the workplace that may be the subject of a grievance are:

  • poor instructions about work tasks; and
  • lack of availability of, and communication from, management.

Grievances may also be about colleagues, for example:

  • a colleague in an adjacent work station making excessive personal phone calls; and
  • workplace cleanliness.
Important: Grievances do not usually relate to employee rights and entitlements. Disagreements about rights and entitlements are disputes.

What is a dispute?

Definition: Dispute

A dispute is a disagreement concerning an employee’s statutory or contractual rights or entitlements.