Taking action through a “personal grievance”: Overview
What is a personal grievance?
A “personal grievance” is one of the main ways for workers to take a legal claim against their employer if they’ve been dealt with illegally or unfairly.
You can use the personal grievance process if your employer has dismissed you unfairly or done something else you think is unjustified, such as suspending you, giving you a written warning, or demoting you. A personal grievance is also available on certain other grounds, like discrimination and sexual harassment. (See below, “On what grounds can I bring a personal grievance?”.)
There’s a particular process you must follow when you bring a personal grievance. You must first raise the issue with your employer within 90 days. Then, if you’re not satisfied with their response, a free mediation service is available. If mediation doesn’t work, you can take your grievance to the Employment Relations Authority. (See “Raising a personal grievance: The process” in this section.)
On what grounds can I bring a personal grievance?
The personal grievance process is available only for a specific set of grounds:
- unjustified dismissal
- unjustified disadvantage
- sexual harassment
- racial harassment
- “duress” – that is, pressure from the employer about union membership or union activity
- a breach of your rights around agreed hours, availability clauses, cancellation of shifts, or restrictions on other (“secondary”) employment
- retaliation against you because of a health and safety dispute.
These grounds are explained in detail in the following sections of this chapter.
Taking a personal grievance if you’re on a work visa
If you’re in New Zealand on a work visa that’s dependent on you having a job, and you’re then legitimately dismissed, you’re legally required to leave the country.
However, if you believe you were dismissed unjustifiably, you should get legal help. You should also consider telling Immigration New Zealand: they may grant you a temporary visa or decide to change the conditions on your existing visa to allow you to stay in New Zealand while you take the personal grievance. However, having a legitimate personal grievance is no guarantee that Immigration New Zealand will change your visa or visa conditions to allow you to stay in the country.
Note: If you plan to bring a personal grievance, it’s important that you deal with the issue of your visa early on. If your current visa expires, you’ll then be in New Zealand unlawfully and this will restrict your ability to apply for future visas.
If a migrant employee has been treated particularly poorly by an employer, then Immigration New Zealand may be interested in prosecuting that employer.