Resolving your problem in the workplace

Workplace problems can be resolved quickly when employees and employers work together to find a solution. Before you ask us for help, you should try to resolve your workplace problem with your employer or employee in the workplace first.

Why workplace problems happen

Workplace problems can happen when:

  • employers and employees don't know or understand their workplace rights and obligations
  • communication has broken down.

Workplace laws are often broken by mistake. Workplace problems can be resolved quickly when employees and employers work together to find a solution.

Try resolving your problem in the workplace first

Resolving workplace problems on your own can be quick and easy.

Our tools and resources help you find the information you need to fix most problems in the workplace and get things back on track.

Even if an employee has left their employment, we encourage you to try to work out issues between yourselves before asking for our help.

There are certain workplace problems that we know happen regularly. These particular problems can usually be fixed by employees and employers talking and coming up with their own solution.

We have step-by-step guides for resolving these problems in our Common workplace problems section. If your problem isn’t one of these, you can try to use our checklist below to resolve your workplace issue in the workplace.

Checklist for resolving issues in the workplace

Step 1: Check the rules relating to your issue

Problems often happen because employers and employees don't know their workplace rights and obligations. An effective way to fix workplace problems is simply to find out what the law is and follow it. Read more at Preventing workplace problems.

Use the information on this website to check the rules about pay and wages, leave and other employment conditions.

If you need to check that you understand the law or how it applies to your workplace problem, you can ask us your question online using My account.

Step 2: Sort out the issue in the workplace

If you've checked the law and still think there is a problem, the next step is to have a conversation to try to sort it out.

Check your workplace’s dispute resolution procedure

Most awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements have a dispute resolution procedure. You should follow this process to raise the issue in your workplace. To check what this procedure says:

Some businesses have workplace-specific processes for dealing with disputes or issues in the workplace. If your workplace has a dispute resolution process you should follow this process as well. If you’re not sure who to talk to, try asking your manager or supervisor.

Find out more about setting up dispute resolution processes in the workplace with our Effective dispute resolution best practice guide.

Prepare yourself for the conversation

We can help with tips on how to have an effective conversation. We have a range of tools and resources to help you prepare for a conversation and find the information you need.

  • Visit our Online learning centre. We have video-based interactive courses to help employers and employees with skills and strategies at work. These include our how to have difficult conversations courses.
  • Check our Pay and Conditions Tool, to help you calculate pay rates and leave entitlements.
  • My account, which allows users to find and save tailored information that's specific to them, and ask us questions online.
  • Fact sheets and templates that help businesses and their employees.

Talk about it

There are some practical steps you can take to make difficult workplace conversations easier and more effective:

  • Make time to talk to your employer or employee without interruptions.
  • Be prepared:
    • know the issues you want to discuss
    • bring along any relevant paperwork, for example pay slips or bank statements
    • have some some suggestions for how the issue could be resolved.
  • Listen, keep an open mind and consider all points of view.
  • Let your employer or employee know that you’ve checked the relevant entitlements or obligations with us, using our website or over the phone.
  • Check our website for information together so you can read and talk about the same information.
  • Develop your skills and strategies for having difficult conversations at work by taking a short course at our Online learning centre.

Put the agreed actions in writing

It's a good idea to put things in writing as part of or after taking the steps above. This helps clarify the issues and outline any next steps or outcomes that are agreed to. For example, you could send a follow up email with a summary of what you talked about and agreed to. If you put something in writing that needs an answer, make sure you give the other person enough time to respond.

Does the employee need to be backpaid? Find out How to fix an underpayment.

Small business dispute resolution

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman external-icon.png helps small businesses resolve workplace and other business issues. They provide information to help businesses better understand and manage disputes, including:

  • an explanation of the five phases of dispute resolution
  • a checklist external-icon.png to better understand how the dispute started and what the issues really are
  • tips for putting concerns in writing, including an example letter.

Visit the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman's website external-icon.png to find out more.

Step 3: Ask us for help

If you can't resolve the issue yourself, you can ask us for help. Visit Ask for our help with a workplace problem for more information.

Tools and resources

Related information

Help for small business