New Zealand’s employment law allows employees to raise personal grievances (“PGs”) against their employers.  There is a strict time limit of 90 days to raise any PG.

In a recent decision of the Employment Relations Authority, an employee was found to have raised a PG 91 days after the issue alleged to amount to a PG occurred.  This meant that, whether the employee had an arguable grievance or not, the ERA was prevented from hearing his claim.

The law does, however, provide some leniency in respect of the 90-day time limit.  Where an employer consents to the raising of a PG out of time, or where the ERA determines to grant the employee leave to raise a PG out of time, a PG raised outside of the 90-day time limit may be heard.

The ERA found that the employer had in fact implicitly consented to the employee raising the PG outside of the 90-day time limit.  Words used by the employer over one month after the PG had been raised were found by the ERA to be such that an objective observer would think that the employer had consented to the raising of the PG out of time.  The ERA was therefore able to hear and determine the employee’s PG.

Whether the leniency provisions are applicable to an employee who has raised a PG outside of the 90-day time limit is not a black and white test.  If you feel aggrieved by something that has happened to you in your employment – seek advice straight away: don’t delay.  If you have felt aggrieved and haven’t acted on it straight away, still seek advice as soon as possible – you may still be able to seek resolution of your concerns.

Conversely for employers: if you have had a personal grievance raised against you, it is important that your responses are carefully considered.  It would be unfortunate to end up in a position similar to the employer above where the relative certainty of the strict time limit for the PG was undermined.