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Informal complaints

Complaints may vary in severity, complexity and whether any allegations are admitted or denied, so give staff the option of an informal or formal procedure.

Informal procedures are for quick problem solving rather than investigating and substantiating claims.

They seek agreement and shared understanding of how to avoid problems in the future.

Informal action is usually appropriate when

  • the staff member complaining wants to do it informally
  • the allegations are less serious
  • there is a chance of quickly stopping the problem before it develops
  • the staff involved are likely to have an ongoing working relationship.

Informal ways of dealing with complaints include: 

  • you observe unacceptable behaviour and take action, even though no-one has complained
  • the person complaining deals with it themselves but may seek advice from a supervisor, HR or union rep, or an equal opportunity contact person
  • the person complaining asks you to deal with it and you confidentially convey their concerns to the person being complained about without making any judgements, and re-state your policy
  • you negotiate individually to reach agreement
  • you bring the two sides together to conciliate, and the issue is resolved without investigation
  • you organise general staff training and discussions to promote discrimination and harassment policies. 

Some informal solutions can be reached without staff even knowing a complaint has been made.

Example - Informal complaint

Colin owned a small city cafe. A new casual worker Bianca was upset because Franco, who also worked in the cafe, kept putting his hands on her hips behind the counter, even though she'd asked him to stop. Colin spoke to Franco, who insisted that he was touching Bianca accidentally due to limited counter space. He offered her an apology. Bianca was assured that Colin had taken her concerns seriously and it was business as usual. Colin also distributed appropriate behaviour policies to all staff.

Staff need to know they have the right to make a formal complaint or approach the Equal Opportunity Commission at any stage.

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