Personal Grievance Time Frames

Personal Grievance Time Frames — 90 Days and Counting  

In the recent Employment Court decision of Teddy v Page, Mr Page almost saw his whole claim fall flat for not submitting a letter on time. Mr Page got into an argument with his manager and was put on disciplinary action. Back and forth communication followed, but deafeningly silent in all this communication was a letter titled a ‘personal grievance.’   

The employer terminated Mr Page on the 7th of August 2020, but it was not until the 10th of November 2020 that the employer received a personal grievance letter — 5 days after the 90-day cut off on personal grievances.   

What is a Personal Grievance  

A personal grievance can be understood as a written or oral complaint made by a current or former employee to an employer that sets off a formal dispute process.   

A personal grievance does not need to be titled ‘personal grievance’, nor does it need to be in any strict form. All that is required is:  

  1. The employer is made sufficiently aware of the complaint;  
  2. The employer knows what to address; and  
  3. The employer has enough detail to actually address it.  

Because of this, any communication or series of communications that create this effect will be can be considered a personal grievance and set off the process. For example, a series of meetings with an employee, even where there has been no written correspondence, can be enough to amount to a personal grievance.  

This is all provided that it is done so within 90 days of when the action complained of happened or came to the employee’s notice.    

The 90-day Clock  

In this case, the employer was arguing that there had been no ‘on-time’ personal grievance to set off the process, and, as such, Mr Page did not have a case.   

However, the Employment Court looked at the totality of the communications and found that the employee had disputed the allegations against him, expressed a desire to change reporting lines, and believed that there was still an employment relationship present.   

To the Court this was an adequate personal grievance with “sufficient particularity as to inform the employer of his position and what it needed to do to put things right.”  

Key takeaway for employees: From the moment you become aware of a breach, you only have 90-days to complain about it. Without an ‘on-time’ personal grievance, the employee can go to mediation but may not take the claim to the Employment Relations Authority or further.   

Key takeaway for employers: If the employee raises a problem with the employer and provides enough details as to propose a solution, the employer may have a personal grievance on their hands.    


If you would like to discuss personal grievance time frames, please get in touch with the Watermark team directly. We are happy to advise you.

Jonathan Charlton (Senior Solicitor/Practice Manager ) and Isaac Proctor (Law Clerk)