The employer will inevitably face grievances or complaints from its employees. Complaints may relate to various issues, such as employment conditions, the working environment, the behaviour or treatment of an employee, and relationships with other employees or third parties such as contractors or clients of the employee.
Certain grievances will be more serious and sensitive than others, particularly when such complaints relate to harassment, discrimination or bullying at the workplace, which merit an even more careful approach to their consideration and resolution.
The manner in which the employer addresses, handles and manages employee complaints is another crucial and central aspect of the employer’s human resources management. The interplay of various factors and circumstances will likely make each grievance unique, such that each complaint will present its own challenges to the employer when trying to address and resolve any such complaint.
The employer should treat all complaints equally, fairly, and seriously, irrespective of the nature or gravity of such complaints. Even a complaint that an employer may perceive as being minor may impact the complainant’s performance at the workplace and, ultimately, the employer’s business and organisation.
It is important for the employer to promptly react to and investigate a complaint, with a view to identifying a reasonably expeditious solution which is fair and reasonable in the circumstances. To ensure an impartial, expeditious and fair resolution of a complaint, an employer should focus on obtaining as much information as possible in relation to the complaint, as well as maintaining an open channel of communication with the complainant and all involved parties such that everyone is given an opportunity to be heard on the matter.
The employer may also consider giving a complainant or other involved parties an opportunity to be accompanied at any meeting that may be set up to discuss the complaint. In the interest of transparency, it would also be important for the employer to issue any decision in writing and to notify the complainant of such decision as soon as the employer decides on the matter. The employer should also consider giving the complainant an opportunity to appeal any such initial decision on a complaint.
The employer should also keep in mind certain statutory duties and responsibilities that may be incumbent on it pursuant to any special law when handling certain complaints and allegations, including for instance in the circumstances prescribed in the Equal Treatment In Employment Regulations (Subsidiary Legislation 452.95) when an employer is faced with allegations of discriminatory treatment at the workplace.
During the performance of a contract of employment the employer may find it necessary, to exercise some form of disciplinary authority over the employee. Disciplinary authority may be trigger due to employee’s underperfomance; his/her failing to meet the standards set or required by the employer, as well as errors or action of negligence in the performance of his/her duties. The exercise of disciplinary authority is a corrective function, not punitive.
The nature and extent of any disciplinary measure that an employer proposes to impose on an employee should be proportionate to the gravity of such employee’s conduct. It should take account of the previous behaviour or performance of the employee as well as any other specific factors and circumstances that the employer would need to consider to address the situation in a reasonable and fair manner.
Disciplinary authority may take various forms, ranging from counselling, fines and penalties, reprimand, suspension, written warnings, to final warnings or dismissal in cases of serious or gross misconduct.
The employer should be reasonable, transparent and proportionate in the way it addresses disciplinary matters and in coming to a decision. The employer should give clear, comprehensive and adequate notice of any warning that it may deem necessary to give to an employee. Disciplinary measures are to reflect the objective of corrective measure and not punishment and should so far as possible be tailored to the individual case, bearing in mind the need to show some form of consistency in like cases.
It is the employer’s duty to draft disciplinary procedures, which may also be included in the employment contract, meaning that the employer and employee are bound by the terms of the agreement on such procedures.
For an employer to issue warnings there need not necessarily be in place any disciplinary procedure and an employer is entitled to issue verbal or written warnings without such being provided for in the employment contract. It is however frequently subject of a disciplinary procedure, which may state the procedural steps before further disciplinary action is taken. Such steps would need to be adhered to and a failure by the employer to observe them may lead to difficulties in unfair dismissal proceedings.
Written policies and procedures are a useful tool for the employer to establish and implement disciplinary and greviences procedures as well as a fair, transparent and proportionate complaint-handling system at its workplace. The actual rules or policies which an exmployee is expected to observe must be brought to his attention.
Such a document would typically outline the various scenarios in which employees may raise their grievances, and the procedures that both the complainant and the employer would be required to follow in such cases. In case of disciplinary procedures these are intended to offer the employee every opportunity to correct any conduct that is likely to be the subject of critical appraisal.
Such a document would benefit both the employer and the employee by increasing the transparency of the manner in which the employer deals with disciplinary matters and grievances, and by providing guidance and clarity to both parties as to the various procedures to be followed by each party in relation to complaints that may arise from time to time.
At Empleo, we provide legal advice to employers on the best complaint-handling practices to adopt and implement in light of the particular nature of their business and staff complement. We are also able to assist employers in the preparation of tailored disciplinary and grievances policies and procedures, and advise employers on the handling of specific employee complaints and disciplinary measures.
Some of our services in this area include the following:
You may get in touch with us here to request an initial free legal consultation in relation to any of the matters outlined above.
Mariella graduated from the University of Malta with a doctorate in law in 2005. She completed a master’s degree in ‘European Private Law’ from the La Sapienza, University of Rome, and was admitted to the bar in Malta in 2006.
Mariella is a people person – and it is this attribute which has really characterised and shaped her career.
Over the years, she headed the legal departments of several corporate services firms. Due to her skillset, she was also entrusted with managing and overseeing operations and human resources, where she gained technical and practical experience in various corporate, commercial and employment matters.
Her practical hands-on experience and insight perfectly complement Mariella’s technical knowledge of employment law, thus placing her in an ideal position to understand and advise employers and employees alike on various matters that may arise at the workplace.
Mariella is passionate about employment law matters and provides her clients with the highest-quality legal service to achieve the best possible outcome and resolve any employment law related issues and concerns.
Bradley graduated Doctor of Laws from the University of Malta in 2005 and was admitted to the Bar in Malta in 2006. He advises clients on various corporate, commercial, employment and regulatory matters, with particular focus on company and financial services law.
He has assisted clients in various corporate and commercial matters by providing company law advice and assisting in the implementation of corporate finance, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions and similar transactions.
Bradley has also advised and assisted investment funds, fund managers and other investment services providers, banks and financial institutions, on various legal and regulatory matters relating to the setting up, authorisation and ongoing conduct of their activities in Malta.
His practice also covers general employment law matters. Bradley’s experience in company and financial services law enables him to focus on various corporate and regulatory aspects of employment relationships. In particular, he advises organisations on the implementation of employee share option and participation schemes, the implications of business transfers on employment relationships, as well as relations with senior employees.
Karl graduated Doctor of Laws from the University of Malta in 2005 and was admitted to the Bar in Malta in 2006.
Karl has gained considerable expertise in technology law and regularly assists clients in relation to intellectual property issues, commercial contracts and ways to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and privacy laws. Whilst such matters used to be only given incidental importance when dealing with employment matters, they are now widely acknowledged to be vital in all employment relationships.
He is also regularly engaged by C-level executives to assist in negotiating employment contracts and settlement agreements.
Karl advises across a multitude of industries including technology; marketing; adtech; financial services; gaming; esports; consumer products; and media and telecommunications.