July/August 2020 | Fruit & Vegetable News magazine

When running a business, it is inevitable that complaints or grievances from workers will come up. When managed poorly, grievances can be stressful, time consuming, costly, and negatively impact employee morale and productivity.  

Having a clear system for managing grievances reduces your exposure to risk, shows employees they will be fairly treated, and manages your legal and ethical responsibilities with a consistent and objective framework.  

The Fair Farms Standard promotes that businesses have a clear and fair grievance policy and procedure in place to support an open and trusting workplace culture.  

What is a grievance? 

When a worker has a grievance, it means they have an issue about something or someone in the workplace, unrelated to their rights or entitlements. Workers can raise grievances against their employer, or against another employee. Types of grievances workers may raise include: 

  • Poor communication from management 
  • Unfair workloads among their co-workers 
  • Unsafe work practices 

Having a policy 

The key to managing workplace grievances effectively is having a clear and equitable grievance policy and procedure in place. The benefits of an effective grievance policy include: 

  • Demonstrating to employees that they will be treated fairly. 
  • Ensuring employees know how to raise grievances, what to expect out of the process, and feel comfortable doing so. 

You should design your policy around your unique business, but generally the policy should outline: 

  • How your business is committed to resolving grievances fairly and reasonably. 
  • What types of issues are dealt with under the policy. 
  • The step-by-step procedure for dealing with and resolving grievances, including timeframes. 

Applying the policy fairly 

A policy is only as effective as its implementation. Therefore, it is very important that you can apply the policy in a reasonable, equitable and fair manner. One way of ensuring fair implementation is by training any supervisors or senior management staff in how to apply the policy.  

However, the most important tool in ensuring your grievance policy works is making sure your employees know about it. Include the policy in new workers’ induction sessions and have a copy in the break room for easy access.  

Anonymous reporting 

In addition to a clear and fair policy, your business should have a way for workers to anonymously report grievances. While it would be ideal for workers to feel safe and comfortable raising issues directly, they may not feel comfortable because: 

  • They do not want to be labelled a “snitch” by co-workers 
  • They have a close relationship with the person they have a grievance about 
  • They are afraid of retaliation  

Importantly, allowing anonymous reporting can help encourage internal resolutions, preventing any additional stress or resources needed to deal with external organisations. Just like the grievance policy, you should clearly outline to your workers how you will deal with anonymous complaints. There are a range of ways to set up an anonymous reporting mechanism, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. An empty tissue box will do the trick!   

These and other ethical employment topics are covered in the Fair Farms Standard, which outlines the accepted principles of fair and ethical employment in Australian horticulture. Employers who wish to demonstrate compliance with the Standard can get certified through a third-party audit. For more information, visit: www.fairfarms.com.au or email us at fairfarms@growcom.com.au