DEALING WITH A GRIEVANCE

RAISED BY AN EMPLOYEE

An efficient and committed workforce is essential for the success of a business and managing your employees fairly and consistently is of paramount importance to ensure this is achieved.

When issues do arise, whether poor conduct or performance, grievances or time off due to sickness or pregnancy, as an employer, you need to be ready to manage these promptly and effectively and in accordance with your obligations.

It is important for the Company and all managers to be able to recognise where risks could arise and how best to tackle managing your staff in order to minimise the risk of claims to the employment tribunal and without causing matters to escalate internally.

The workplace is full of employee and employment law issues that if wrongly handled could potentially result in costly, lengthy and acrimonious legal disputes and claims. Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints raised by an employee about workplace issues that may relate to:

  • their work
  • work load
  • where they work or with whom they work
  • pay and working conditions
  • terms of employment and workplace rules
  • disagreements with co-workers
  • allegations of unfair treatment at work
  • Bullying and harassment

These Grievances are best dealt with at an early stage, informally, but businesses and HR Directors must be prepared to handle employee grievances that cannot be resolved informally by using a formal Employee Grievance Procedure

It’s important for every business, whatever its size, to have a Formal Grievance Procedure in place, which takes into account the ACAS Code of Practice, and to have this available to all employees and included in the Staff handbook.

DISCIPLINARY AND GRIEVANCE – ACAS CODE OF PRACTICE

The procedure should require the employee to set out in writing the nature of their grievance and for employers to deal with the grievance fairly and consistently. Do not ignore any concern or complaint raised by an employee, however casual the manner in which it was raised. The employee may mention it to their manager or send an email that expresses discontent. Even though they may not specifically refer to it as being a grievance, it is always advisable to deal with it as if it were.

The primary steps for dealing with a grievance are as follows:

STEP 1: INFORMAL ACTION

Initially and as soon as they can, the line manager should have an informal discussion with the employee making the complaint. Problems can often be settled quickly and informally in the course of everyday work. However, if the grievance is not settled at this stage or circumstances make this route inappropriate then, if they have not already done so, the employee should be advised to submit a formal Grievance letter.

STEP 2: EMPLOYEE SHOULD BE INVITED TO A FORMAL MEETING

This should be held in a private and confidential room between the Manager designated to hear the Grievance and the employee who may be accompanied by a work colleague or Trade Union official. This is the opportunity for the grievance to be thoroughly discussed and any witnesses called. It would be advisable to have an HR person in attendance or someone who can take a detailed account of the meeting (minutes) and for each party to have a copy.

STEP 3: INVESTIGATION

Depending on the complexity of the grievance it may be necessary to adjourn the meeting so that further investigation may take place before any decision is taken.

STEP 4: COMMUNICATE AND KEEP RECORDS

After the grievance meeting and any investigations have taken place, the employer needs to decide whether to uphold or dismiss the grievance and communicate this decision to the employee in writing without unreasonable delay, usually within 10 working days. The HR Director or Manager handling the employee grievance must ensure that the minutes of all formal grievance meetings are taken and copies given to the employee for information. The minute taker should not be part of the discussions about the outcome of the grievance or appeal other than to record the key points of the discussion.

STEP 5: APPEAL

If the Grievance is rejected or partially rejected then the employee has the right to appeal against that decision. The appeal should be heard promptly and wherever possible by a Manager not previously involved in the case. The employee may be accompanied as before and notified in writing of the decision, again within 10 working days is standard practice.

DISCIPLINARY PROCESS AND THE RAISING OF A GRIEVANCE

An employee can raise a grievance during a disciplinary process. The disciplinary process may be suspended temporarily until after the grievance has been dealt with or if the grievance and disciplinary cases are related it may be appropriate to deal with both issues concurrently. The size of the business may require an expert outside advisor such as an experienced HR professional to hear the Grievance, the Appeal or even the Disciplinary.

Where it is appropriate, with the Employee’s consent, an external Mediator might be more suitable.

A C Employment Solicitors can provide you with:

  •  a CEDR qualified commercial mediator who can deal with the workplace mediation in the hope of bringing the dispute to a close very swiftly, possibly within a one day session.
  • Advice to talk you through the process; customised policies and relevant correspondence to comply effectively with the grievance process.

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