Please note: Articles on this website were originally published by in 2015 and may now be out of date. Revised and updated content is included in Civil Litigation for Non-Lawyers [available here]Disclaimer

A personal grievance is a kind of complaint that an employee may raise with an employer. The employee could say he or she was unjustifiably dismissed or otherwise disadvantaged, discriminated against, sexually or racially harassed or otherwise let down by the employer in relation to employment. The full definition of what a ‘personal grievance’ is in New Zealand, under the Employment Relations Act 2000, is set out at section 103 of that Act.

Section 114 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 explains how personal grievances may be raised with employers. There is a general requirement that the grievance is raised within 90 days, although there are some exceptions to this. To ‘raise’ a grievance simply means to make the employer aware of it. While not a legal requirement, it is worth writing a letter or email setting out just what the grievance is. That is so the grievance is recorded in writing, and reduces opportunities for dispute about what was said, and when and how.  This is what section 114 actually says:

(1) Every employee who wishes to raise a personal grievance must, subject to sections (3) and (4), raise the grievance with his or her employer within the period of 90 days beginning with the date on which the action alleged to amount to a personal grievance occurred or came to the notice of the employee, whichever is the later, unless the employer consents to the personal grievance being raised after the expiration of that period.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a grievance is raised with an employer as soon as the employee has made, or has taken reasonable steps to make, the employer or a representative of the employer aware that the employee alleges a personal grievance that the employee wants the employer to address.

(3) Where the employer does not consent to the personal grievance being raised after the expiration of the 90 day period, the employee may apply to the Authority for leave to raise the personal grievance after the expiration of that period.

(4) On an application under subsection (3), the Authority, after giving the employer an opportunity to be heard, may grant leave accordingly, subject to such conditions (if any) as it thinks fit, if the Authority – 

(a) is satisfied that the delay in raising the personal grievance was occasioned by exceptional circumstances (which may include any 1 or more of the circumstances set out in section 115); and

(b) considers it just to do so.

(5) In any case where the Authority grants leave under subsection (4), the Authority must direct the employer and employee to use mediation to seek to mutually resolve the grievance.

(6) No action may be commenced in the Authority or the court in relation to a personal grievance more than 3 years after the date on which the personal grievance was raised in accordance with this section.

Note: This content was originally published by in 2015. Disclaimer