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How to tackle problems at work

If your employer is treating you in a way you are unhappy with, or not giving you what you are entitled to, don't suffer in silence. You can take action to deal with the problem.

Every work situation is different, so there isn't just one way of dealing with a problem. What you should do will depend on what kind of relationship you have with your employer and the type of problem you have.

Here is an outline of the steps you could take:

  • You could start by talking to your employer; explain that you are not getting what you are entitled to or that you are unhappy with the way you are being treated. You might be able to settle the matter straight away.
  • If that doesn't work you should get in touch with your trade union representative, if you have one, or a personnel officer at your work and they will be able to advise you on what to do next.
  • Every employer must have a procedure to deal with employees’ problems and complaints. You might have to put your complaint in writing. If you are in this position, it is a good idea to get in touch with an experienced adviser at your local law centre, Citizen's Advice Bureau, or advice agency.

    Employment tribunals are set up to resolve disputes between employers and employees. Most complaints must be made within three months of the incident or action you are complaining about.

  • As a last resort you might decide to make a complaint to an employment tribunal. You should think carefully before doing this as it is likely to create bad feeling between you and your employer no matter what the outcome. If you feel that this is your only option you should speak to an experienced adviser first as there are important rules you must follow before going to a tribunal.

Top Tips for dealing with work problems:

  • If it is an ongoing problem like bullying or discrimination, keep a diary. It's important to have a record of what's happening to you.
  • If you decide to talk to your employer directly, go through what you are going to say with a friend first - try to stay calm and polite so you don't lose control of the situation. Immediately after you have talked to them, make a note of what was said by both of you.
  • Don't delay in taking steps to deal with a problem, remember there's usually a 3 month deadline for making a claim at an employment tribunal.
  • If you decide to make a formal complaint, make sure you are familiar with your employer's complaint procedures.
  • If you are having a meeting with your managers about a complaint you have made or because they have complained about your work or behaviour, you can take a fellow worker or a trade union representative with you to the meeting. This is a good idea, as it will give you moral support as well as a witness to what is said.

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December 2011

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