Policy Resolving Workplace Grievances and Complaints Procedure

Resolving Workplace Grievances and Complaints Procedure

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This procedure provides a fair and transparent process for the resolution of grievances and complaints raised by staff regarding employment related matters that meet the requirements of the James Cook University Enterprise Agreement.


This procedure applies to all staff covered by the James Cook University Enterprise Agreement.

This procedure may apply to grievances and complaints raised by staff regarding employment related matters.

However, this procedure does not apply to matters relating to the Enterprise Agreement or the NES, which are able to be dealt with under the disputes procedure of the Enterprise Agreement.

Where JCU is required under legislation to deal with a particular matter in another way, this procedure will not be available. In this case an authorised officer from Human Resources will advise the aggrieved staff member of the alternative procedures required.


Complaint/grievance means a complaint or grievance under this procedure.

NES – National Employment Standards.

Representative – A staff member or a delegate or staff member of a union that is a party to the Agreement and not a practising solicitor or barrister.  The Representative should not be a person involved in the complaint/grievance or a party to the complaint/grievance.



In managing and resolving complaints/grievances the following principles will be appropriately applied, taking into account the nature of the complaint/grievance:

  • Where possible complaints/grievances should be resolved informally and locally;

  • Negotiation and conciliation are the guiding principles to be applied by all parties when attempting to resolve complaints/grievances;

  • This procedure emphasises a collegial approach to grievance and complaint resolution through informal procedures and mediation that are designed to lead to a prompt and fair resolution of difficult problems;

  • At any stage during the workplace complaint/grievance, the complainant/s and/or the respondent/s may nominate a Representative to accompany and support  them;

  • Complaints/grievances will be treated seriously;

  • Complaints/grievances should be dealt with within a reasonable timeframe;

  • Neither party  should be subject to victimisation;

  • Support should be available to all parties to the complaint/grievance;

  • Appropriate communication should occur throughout the process;

  • Appropriate documentation will be maintained;

  • Confidentiality must be maintained; and

  • Principles of natural justice will guide the application of this procedure.

General Provisions

Where a University decision, action or inaction, gives rise to a grievance, JCU will, where possible, refrain from such action, inaction, policy change or decision during the period that it takes for the grievance to be resolved. The status quo of the parties concerned shall, where possible, remain unchanged in all other respects.

Where two (2) or more staff members believe they have a common grievance or complaint they may initiate these grievance and complaint resolution procedures jointly and the matter shall be dealt with as a single grievance.

Grievance resolution procedures shall not be used to challenge decisions of JCU Council, or/and procedures required by industrial legislation, regulations, awards or duly executed agreements between the employer, the employee/s and a relevant Union.

Matters raised under this procedure may be withdrawn by the staff member or their Representative, by notice in writing to the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer).

Offers of compromise as well as agreements reached during this grievance and complaint resolution procedure shall not constitute precedents in regard to other similar grievances and are without prejudice to positions which the staff member, their Representative or JCU might take in the future.

Where the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) determines that the grievance and/or complaint would be better addressed under another JCU policy and/or procedure, all parties will be advised of this and no further action will be taken under this procedure.  For example complaints/grievances relating to bullying and harassment and/or sexual harassment will be dealt with under the JCU Workplace Bullying and Intimidation Policy and/or the JCU Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedure.

If the complaint/grievance has already been dealt with under another applicable policy/procedure, then the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) will advise all parties of this and no further action will be taken under this procedure.

The time limits set out in these procedures may be extended by mutual agreement or where in the reasonable opinion of the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) the nature of the complaint/grievance requires an extension of time to be managed.

Nothing in this procedure prevents JCU from acting to address:

  • the safety and/or well being of a staff member; or

  • a vexatious, frivolous or false complaint/grievance; or

  • misconduct or serious misconduct in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement.

JCU may have an obligation to refer certain complaints/grievances to the Crime and Misconduct Commission or other external government agencies/independent statutory authorities in accordance with its legislative obligations.  Where that arises, nothing in this procedure will prevent JCU from dealing with the matter in accordance with those legislative obligations.


All parties to the grievance/complaint must ensure confidentiality is maintained throughout the entire grievance process.

All parties to the grievance/complaint will be informed of:

  • the nature of the grievance/complaint

  • the steps taken or to be taken to resolve the grievance/complaint; and

  • the outcome of the process.

Record Keeping

Accurate and appropriate confidential records will be kept by the person/s responsible at the particular level during the process. These records will be kept by Human Resources.

Vexatious, Frivolous or Improper Complaints

While the majority of staff complaints/grievances are motivated by genuine concern about perceived or actual inappropriate or unfair behaviour or actions, on some occasions a complaint/grievance may be vexatious, frivolous or improper.   A vexatious or frivolous complaint is one which has the ability to harass or annoy, to cause delay or detriment, or is for any other improper purpose.    Any complaint/grievance that is found to be vexatious, frivolous or made for an improper purpose may constitute grounds for disciplinary action.


First Level: Facilitation




Where a staff member wishes to raise a complaint/grievance with JCU under this procedure the staff member must initially attempt to resolve the complaint/grievance informally themselves at the workplace level, by raising their concern with the other party or parties involved in the grievance, if they feel able to do so.


If a staff member does not feel able to raise concerns with the other party or parties involved in a grievance, the staff member should raise their concerns with the line manager.

Where the staff member claims to have been aggrieved by their line manager, the staff member should instead inform their line manager’s supervisor.


The parties should (if possible) arrange a discussion to try and informally resolve the complaint/grievance within 10 working days. Where the staff member or line manager requests, assistance with informal resolution and/or documentation of an agreed resolution, Human Resources is available to facilitate discussions and to record any agreed outcome.


If the matter is able to be informally resolved the resolution reached between the parties should be recorded in writing and will be adhered to by the parties and provided to Human Resources for filing.

Second level: Assisted Resolution




If the complaint/grievance is not resolved at the first level, the staff member or, where requested, their Representative, may notify the Director, Human Resources or authorised officer, of the unresolved complaint/grievance.  This written notification must be provided no later than 5 working days following the meeting and/or failure to meet to resolve the complaint/grievance.  The notification should include the following information:

  • The details of the complaint/grievance and any supporting documentation;

  • Any attempts made to resolve the complaint/grievance informally;

  • Any response that was provided during or following the attempts at informal resolution;

  • Any solutions or remedies discussed; and

  • The preferred remedy to resolve the complaint/grievance and any alternative remedies that may be acceptable.


The Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) will seek a response from the staff member and such response is to be provided within 5 working days of the request from the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer).


Within 20 working days the Director, Human Resources (or authorised officer) will attempt to resolve the complaint/grievance. Possible resolution may include but is not limited to:

  • making further inquiries into the complaint/grievance;

  • conducting a facilitated discussion; and/or

  • making suggestions for resolution.


The Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) may during or following the 20 working days:

confirm with the parties any agreed resolution of the complaint/grievance (which shall be recorded in writing and adhered to by the parties);

otherwise notify the parties:

  • of any resolution that the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) recommends be accepted by the parties;

  • of any further steps the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) intends to take which may include but are not limited to initiating a formal investigation and/or recommending formal ADR under the third level; and/or

  • that the Director Human Resources does not intend to take any further steps.


Where the Director Human Resources (in response to a request or otherwise) has advised of further steps that will be taken to resolve the dispute, which may include a formal investigation or other steps, those steps will be undertaken in a timely manner and the parties to the complaint/grievance advised of the outcome.

Third level: Formal resolution (alternative dispute resolution - ADR)




Within 5 working days of the notification by the Director Human Resources (or authorised officer), if the complaint/grievance is still not resolved and/or the complainant/s who made the original complaint/grievance is dissatisfied with the second level outcome, the complainant may request that the parties participate in alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Requests are to be made to the Director, Human Resources. The Director Human Resources (or authorised officer) will consider the request and advise the parties of the further steps (if any) that the Director Human Resources considers appropriate to attempt to resolve the complaint/grievance.


Where the Director Human Resources considers it appropriate in the circumstances and given the nature of the grievance/complaint, the Director Human Resources may direct the parties to participate in a form of ADR.  Confidential ADR of the grievance or complaint will be provided by a mediator/conciliator/facilitator who is independent of the complaint/grievance.  The ADR will occur within 10 working days where reasonably practicable.

The Director, Human Resources will ensure that appropriate arrangements and processes are put in place for the ADR.

Any agreed resolution of the complaint/grievance shall be recorded in an ADR outcome agreement and adhered to by the parties.

Where the parties have already participated in ADR in the Second Level of the procedure (Assisted Resolution) ADR will not be considered at this level and the staff member may refer the matter to the Fair Work Commission under the Fourth Level of the procedure.

Fourth Level: Referral to the Fair Work Commission




Where the complaint/grievance remains unresolved following completion of any formal resolution process under the third level either party to the complaint/grievance process may refer the matter to the Fair Work Commission (FWC).


The decision made by the FWC will be binding on the parties involved in the complaint/grievance and will constitute a settlement of the matter.

Related policy instruments

James Cook University Enterprise Agreement


NOTE: Printed copies of this policy are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Approval Details

Approval Authority:

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Services and Resources

Approval date:


Date for next review:


Revision History

Approval date - the date the approval authority approved the establishment, minor or major amendment or disestablishment

Implementation Date - the date the procedure was published in the Policy Library and is the date the procedure takes effect


Approval date

Implementation date






Next Review date extended to align with Enterprise Agreement negotiations

Deputy Director, Human Resources




Minor administrative amendments: references to Director HRM amended to Director Human Resources; references to 'nominee' replaced with 'authorised officer'; approval authority amended to DVC Services and Resources, and administration details amended in accordance with the Policy and Delegations Framework.




Procedure Established

Belinda Pope



Grievance, Complaint