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How you can resolve employment issues

Being able to recognise, understand and deal with workplace conflicts will keep you safe from personal grievance cases and minimise the impact disputes can have on your business.

Being prepared for conflicts before they happen is the best approach - which is why all your employment agreements should clearly outline how your business handles employee disputes. It is also helpful to have clear policies and procedures in place.

Try to solve problems before they escalate

Typically, workplace issues don’t just disappear. In fact, it’s more common that they’ll escalate if no action is taken.

Proactively try to resolve a problem as soon as you spot one, by:

  • dealing with any employee problem openly, honestly and without misleading the employee
  • treating staff consistently and without favouritism
  • discussing the issue as soon as you’re aware of it
  • clarifying what the problem is and trying to resolve it.

If the issue is not resolved you could request mediation with Employment Mediation Services which operates within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. This is a free mediation service available to any employee or employer with an employment relationship issue.

If, after these steps, the problem is still not resolved you could arrange independent mediation or go to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

The issue could worsen if you don’t resolve it, or you could expose yourself to a personal grievance case. If you are not sure what to do talk to Employment New Zealand.

Mediation(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Employment Relations Authority (ERA)(external link)

Talk to Employment New Zealand(external link)

Find out what you know about hiring and managing people. 

What is a personal grievance

Any employee can lodge a personal grievance against you if they feel that they’ve been:

  • dismissed without justification
  • disadvantaged by an action you’ve taken
  • discriminated against
  • sexually harassed (either by someone in authority or by a co-worker)
  • racially harassed
  • pressured into joining or leaving a union or other employee organisation.

Employees must raise the grievance within 90 days of either:

  • the date the incident took place, or
  • the date they first became aware of the incident.

There’s no official way to raise the grievance – they can do it in writing or face-to-face, but it has to be sufficiently clear to make the employer aware that there is a grievance.

The timeframe for raising a personal grievance due to sexual harassment has been increased from 90 days to 12 months. This is not retrospective as this increased timeframe only applies from the date the personal grievance commences.

The timeframe for lodging all other types of personal grievance remains 90 days.

New employment agreements need to be updated to reflect the change in the timeframe in which to raise a personal grievance due to sexual harassment.

Existing agreements do not need to be updated but the extended timeframe applies regardless of what is stated in an existing employment agreement.

Resolving a personal grievance

There are two ways to try and resolve a personal grievance case before it goes further – through internal dispute resolution or a mediation service.

1. Internal dispute resolution

Like any other problem in the workplace, the first step to resolving a dispute is to meet with the person (or people) involved. You can get professional advice beforehand by contacting Employment New Zealand(external link).

When you arrange a meeting about a dispute:

  • Make sure your employee knows they can bring a support person (like a friend or partner, a lawyer or a union representative).
  • You can invite your own lawyer or industry association representative.
  • Set up the meeting with enough time to prepare beforehand and choose a time when you won’t be rushed.
  • Make sure the meeting takes place in a location where you’ll have privacy.
  • Take detailed notes of everything that’s discussed, and share them afterwards with all parties.

During the meeting:

  • Be clear about the facts — make sure the problem isn’t based on an assumption or a misunderstanding.
  • Talk to each other — you’re both responsible for this.
  • Discuss the problem fully so that everyone understands exactly what happened and how.
  • Consider whether you need help to resolve the problem.
  • If you can’t resolve the issue internally, your next step is to seek mediation.

2. Mediation services

Employment Mediation Services offers a free mediation service(external link) — or you can find an independent mediator.


  • are independent people who are professionally trained to help parties resolve conflict
  • can help each party identify and discuss the issues before they agree on a solution that meets both their needs.

Mediation is not always done in face-to-face meetings – your mediator can recommend what will be best for your situation.

Resolving problems(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Role of the Employment Relations Authority (ERA)

The ERA is an independent body that makes determinations on employment relationship problems, and personal grievances.

If an employee believes they have a personal grievance case against you and you can’t resolve it either internally or through mediation, they can file with the ERA. You can also go to the ERA with an employment problem such as recovery of money from an employee.

After investigating, the ERA can eg (these things are examples, not the only things the ERA can do):

  • refer the matter for further mediation
  • dismiss the case
  • order you to:
    • reinstate the employee
    • pay them lost wages
    • pay compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

The ERA can also order you to cover your employee’s costs, or vice versa, if cost claims are lodged in writing.

Employment Relations Authority(external link) — Employment New Zealand

Disagreeing with an ERA decision

If you’re unhappy with an ERA decision, you can take your case to the Employment Court. This isn’t an appeal — a new case will be opened and a full judicial hearing will be held.

Like the ERA, the Court may refer your case back to a mediator.

The Employment Court process is complicated, so you should get help from someone with Employment Court expertise, like a lawyer.

Employment Court of New Zealand(external link)

Build your own workplace policies

Build your own workplace policies

Use our Workplace Policy Builder to create policies tailored to your workplace. The tool has tips to help you decide what to put in and leave out of your policy. You’ll also find common mistakes employers make and ways to avoid them. 

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