Someone’s made a complaint about my business

People usually come to us because they have a concern about their workplace entitlements. In some instances, they may have talked to you before they made the complaint or perhaps it’s come as a surprise. There are a number of things you can do to help resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

Talk to the employee

If the employee is still working for you, it’s important to try and maintain the relationship so that you can keep working together. If you can, talk to your employee about their concerns. Make sure you listen to them and answer their questions if you can.

If you’re not sure how to talk to your employee, try our online learning course. The ‘difficult conversations in the workplace’ course will show you how to plan for and have difficult conversations with your staff.

It might help to find information about their entitlements together. You could visit our website, call us or visit us together - this will help to make sure you have the same understanding about their entitlements and your obligations.

We find that employees who are still working for a business are often reluctant to raise issues with their boss before they make a complaint. This can be because they’re concerned it will damage their position or they’ll lose their job. An employee can’t be fired or treated differently because they’ve made a complaint.

Check your obligations

Find out what the issue is and what your obligations are. If you can’t find the information you need on this website:

If you find that you’ve done something wrong, fix it straight away.

If you’re sure you haven’t done anything wrong, tell the person who’s looking after the complaint and tell them why. You don’t have to pay someone what they think they’re owed if they’re not entitled to it.

If you’re a member of an employer organisation, you can give them a call for information and advice.

Find out more:

Don’t ignore us

We want to help. We realise that mistakes happen and problems arise in the workplace.

In the first instance we’ll call you to talk to you about what the complaint is about and to understand your side of the issue. At this early stage we are simply working out the best way to help resolve the matter.

We’ll decide the best way to resolve the issues

We want to help you and your employee resolve the issues quickly and fairly. When someone makes a complaint to us, we’ll consider the information and decide what we’ll do to help resolve it. We don’t investigate every complaint - other options include mediation. Employees can also get legal advice and take their own legal action.

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Before mediation

At this stage we help employers and employees understand their workplace rights and obligations. We prepare parties for mediation and give you an opportunity to resolve the dispute before mediation.

Find out more:


We often recommend that employees who make a complaint have a mediation with their employer (or former employer). Mediation gives the parties a chance to quickly reach an agreed and confidential resolution. Mediation is a quick and informal process and usually happens over the phone.

Find out more:

After mediation

If a complaint can’t be resolved by mediation, we will look at the information given by each side and provide a written response on whether any Commonwealth workplace laws have been contravened (breached).

The response will include a set of instructions on how to move forward with the matter. At this stage we may also consider different Enforcement options.

Find out more:


We try and resolve most complaints voluntarily through mediation and by educating employers and employees. We don’t investigate every complaint. However, if at any stage we form the view that a matter involves very serious issues which may warrant enforcement activity, we will conduct an investigation of the complaint.

There are a number of things you can do if we decide that the best way to resolve the complaint is to conduct an investigation.

  • Get some advice from a workplace relations professional
  • If you’re a member of an employer or industry association, talk to them. They will be able to give you advice. See our Registered organisations page for a list of unions and employer organisations
  • Work with us cooperatively and constructively. We won’t make a firm decision about the complaint until we have all the evidence
  • If we issue a Notice to Produce (a legal document requiring you to provide certain documents and / or records by a specific date), make sure you comply with it
  • If you find there is an issue, fix it quickly. You don’t need to wait for proof from us or for us to make a decision about the rest of the complaint (eg. if the complaint is about underpayment of wages and overtime rates and you find that you didn’t pay the right overtime rates, fix it. You don’t need to wait until we make a decision about whether or not there was an underpayment of wages)
  • If you don’t agree with us, tell us and tell us why.

If we find that there has been a financial breach and money is outstanding to an employee (or employees) we expect it to be rectified.

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During a targeted campaign or audit

From time to time we conduct education and audit campaigns in a particular area or industry. If your business is audited:

  • use it as learning experience to make sure you meeting your obligations
  • work with us cooperatively and constructively - we won’t make a firm decision until we have all of the evidence.

If you’re a member of an employer organisation - talk to them. We often consult with employer and industry associations about our campaigns.

Enforceable undertakings and legal action

We don’t take every matter to court. You can read our litigation policy to find out what we consider when deciding what the most appropriate course of action is.

If you find that you’re offered an enforceable undertaking, or if we are taking you and/or your business to court:

  • get advice from a lawyer or employer association
  • if you think we haven’t taken evidence into account, make sure we know about it.

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Page last updated: 13 Jun 2013