Step 1. Find out the process
Whether you’re raising concerns about a problem at work or making a request of your employer, find out if your workplace has a process to follow. Some workplaces, particularly larger ones, have a form you’re asked to complete or a specific person or department to contact. It’s best to use the official form if one exists. Otherwise, you can write a letter or an email.
Step 2. Pull your thoughts and paperwork together
Before you write your letter, pull your thoughts together, as well as any paperwork supporting your position.
Make notes of your concerns and what you want to achieve. If there was a specific incident, write down the date and place it happened, how it made you feel, and who witnessed it. Describe any conversations you’ve had about it with anyone since then (don’t mention conversations with your lawyer or doctor).
Think hard about the outcome you want. How do you hope your employer responds? One way to think about this is to put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: What would I do if I were them? If you want your employer to formally investigate your complaint, either following a process set out in a policy manual or otherwise, make this clear to them. If you can make concrete and reasonable suggestions, you’ll give your employer something to work with. You’re more likely to get at least part of the solution you’re after.
Gather together anything that supports your position — any emails or letters that relate to the issue, your paystubs (if part of your pay was missing, for example), your written employment contract (if you have one). If there are any specific laws that apply to your situation, make sure you understand them and consider if you want to raise them in writing with your employer. The Employment Standards Branch and WorkSafeBC have legal information sheets for employers, which you could consider attaching to a letter in appropriate circumstances.
Step 3. Write your letter
We offer a template letter to deal with a problem at work. Here’s a walkthrough of what you might put in your letter:
- Calmly and respectfully explain what the issue is. Include as much relevant detail as you can think of, including the dates of any incidents and who was involved. If your complaint is that you haven’t been paid, or paid enough, say how much you think your employer owes you.
- Explain briefly the impact on you. Describe how the issue has made you feel. Avoid attacking your employer or other staff.
- Describe the steps you’ve taken so far. If you tried to resolve the situation informally first, mention that and say what the outcome was.
- Suggest a solution. Say as clearly as you can what steps you would like your employer to take to make things work for you. You may not get everything you want, and with that in mind you might suggest an alternative solution you could live with if your preferred solution isn’t accepted.
- Ask for a response by a certain date. For example, “Can you please let me know how you will be addressing this issue by [date]”. Generally, one week is a reasonable timeline.
Make sure your letter is dated and signed. Include copies of any supporting evidence with your letter. Keep a copy for yourself.