Disputes, grievances and complaints

A grievance policy states how your organisation will approach volunteer grievances, concerns or complaints. It also outlines the approach taken to complaints or grievances about a volunteer or their actions.

This links to National Standards for Involving Volunteers No.4 – Work and the workplace.

Your policy is a guide to how to deal with any kind of complaint or dispute resolution. It should include:

  • What to do when an employee and/or a volunteer have a dispute between them
  • What an employee and/or volunteer can do if they have a complaint
  • An outline of the complaint procedure
  • Who is covered by the policy
  • The roles and responsibilities of those people involved and their supervisors/managers
  • How to make an appeal
  • What happens when a grievance or complaint is made
  • Timelines
  • Who else can help.

You might find it is helpful to present the information as a flow chart.

What needs to go in it?

If you are writing a disputes and grievances policy, provide clear step-by-step instructions on who the complainant needs to speak to. Normally this is the manager of the department.

The manager should arrange to meet the volunteer to talk about the issue and try to resolve the issue internally. It is important to have another manager or director available as an alternative contact person in case the complainant has a problem with the manager and doesn’t feel comfortable approaching him or her. It is a good idea to create the disputes and grievance policy as a flow chart.

If a solution isn’t found after the first meeting between the complainant and manager and neither party is t satisfied with the outcome, the next step would be for the manager’s supervisor to be involved in discussions.

It is best for disputes and grievances to be solved internally. However, if after approaching all levels of management, the dispute cannot be resolved, a third party can be brought into discussions. This third party could be the local volunteer resource centre. Volunteers can also call the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria, which offers free mediation services to all Victorians.

It is important for all discussions to be friendly and open, and for the volunteer to be encouraged to be direct. Make sure the meeting takes place where it is convenient for both parties and the volunteer feels comfortable – somewhere his or her privacy isn’t jeopardised.

What now?

Make the document public. Don’t be afraid of receiving complaints or disputes. It is better to solve the problem in the beginning than let it escalate. When your disputes and grievances policy is finalised, make the document public and upload it to your website. It is no good having a dispute and grievances policy if no one knows it exists. Make sure your volunteers understand the disputes and grievances policy and whom to go to for assistance. For new volunteers, it can be incorporated into the induction.

Read our section on Disputes and grievances for more information.

Tools and resources