Knowing your rights and responsibilities when attending meetings
Whilst meetings with your employer, colleagues, parents and students can be collegial and productive, members are often unsure about their obligations and what their rights are. IEUA-QNT Industrial Officer Danielle Wilson gives examples of various meeting requests members may encounter and how best to respond.
Employees can be called to meetings for a variety of reasons. Occasionally an employee is invited to discuss any ‘concerns’ the employer may have about their conduct, capacity or performance in relation to their continued employment.
When this occurs members can be confused about how they should respond to such a request. Regardless of the purpose of the meeting, members should never be caught unawares. Parties should provide reasonable notice, along with details of what the meeting is about, the names of people attending and the opportunity to arrange for a support person of their own choosing if and when needed.
Our union’s advice will vary depending on the situation; however, generally any meeting should be managed at the lowest appropriate level. To escalate matters unnecessarily can have damaging effects; however, there are times when escalation is necessary, to ensure a member’s rights and entitlements are protected. The following is a list of scenarios that will give an idea of the best action to take when responding to a meeting request.
You are asked to attend a meeting with a colleague to discuss planning
Members are often called to operation meetings in the course of their work. Some members report being concerned about these meetings when there is something else going on in the background, such as a current grievance or complaint process involving one of the attendees, or there may have been unresolved discussions previously on the topic and some animosity has arisen as a result.
Our advice is always to maintain professional integrity and attend operational meetings as required. If anything occurs in an operational meeting that is less than favourable, this should be noted formally and in a professional way.
Employees are expected to attend operational meetings without the need of a support person; however, if an employee has concerns, they should not be denied the opportunity to have someone with them. In the case of an operational meeting, a support person should be a trusted colleague and ideally a team member or someone involved in the area of discussion so that it is managed at the lowest possible level.
You are asked to set up a meeting with a parent over an incident with their child
Parent and/or student meetings are a very important part of the relationship our members build with the families in their school communities. However sometimes, parents can be challenging to manage. Wherever possible, these meetings should be kept informal and direct.
Where problems arise, it may be necessary to seek the support of your employer and have another relevant colleague attend with you.
For example, if the meeting is with the parent of a student with special needs, having a member of the Learning Support team present may be helpful.
You are asked to attend a meeting with a member of the Leadership Team to discuss work performance
When it comes to matters that could have an impact on employment, members should take a support person of their own choosing with them.
Having a support person present means that there is someone independent to take notes at the meeting and to bear witness to the conversation. This has a dual benefit as it means that the chance of matters being misrepresented is minimised and it provides an opportunity for members to debrief with someone after the meeting to be sure they understood everything that was said and what occurred. Our union can provide advice prior to a meeting of this nature and can record the outcome for members afterwards.
You are asked to attend a meeting with a member of the Leadership Team over a workplace incident or complaint involving you, or you are asked to attend an interview with an investigator
This is another situation where it is wise for members to have a support person of their own choosing present to witness the conversation and be an independent set of eyes in the room.
It may be that members are called as witnesses, or as respondents to complaints. Union advice will depend on the reason members are called and the severity of the incident.
If an independent investigator is engaged to investigate the matter, a union officer should attend. In any case, members should contact our union for initial advice and an assessment of their situation to be sure they have the right level of representation.
You are asked to attend a mediation with a colleague to resolve a situation
Our union is a strong advocate of professional mediation, and for it to work, the parties to the conflict must approach the issue wanting to resolve it. There is no room for a win/lose mindset and mediation is not a process that will offer any form of judgement.
The mediation must be conducted by a professional, accredited mediator who has no connection to the situation, the people or the organisation involved. It is a cost borne by employers who may believe they can demand to know what occurred, but in a genuine mediated outcome, the most they should be made aware of is whether or not the mediation proved successful and if there is anything the employer needs to do in terms of workplace adjustments to assist in the resolution.
You seek a meeting with a colleague or a member of your Leadership Team to discuss a grievance or concern you have
Where members seek a meeting to discuss a concern they have, they should take time to determine who they need to speak to and the type of forum this requires before proceeding.
Depending on the issue and the person being invited, our union’s advice will differ. For example, if a colleague has made an inappropriate comment to a member and the purpose of the meeting is for the member to advise the colleague of the offence caused, the matter should be discussed just between the two parties, informally, without the need for support in the hope of getting a resolution. However, if the person that they meet with is a person who is their senior, or is someone who intimidates the member, the conversation should take place in the presence of a support person.
Where members seek a meeting to discuss more serious or sensitive matters such as harassment or bullying, or where the person they wish to meet with is a member of senior leadership, the meeting should be managed formally and a support person or union official attend where possible.
While there are many reasons that meetings are called, the main concern is making sure a fair process is followed and members are not “ambushed” by the way the request has been made or by the way their employer makes them feel.
Our union can provide general advice and information to financial members should they have any concerns about attending a meeting. Contact our Member Services Officers on FREECALL 1800 177 937.
*General advice is available to financial members only. Industrial or legal representation is only available to members who are financial, and who were financial at the time the matter first arose.