Since the pandemic began at the beginning of 2020, it’s safe to say that tensions have run high at times. It’s not too surprising that we’ve had a lot of enquires lately about how to handle a grievance procedure.
The most common complaints employers are seeing lately regard employee disputes, health and safety, employee benefits, holiday entitlement and issues with equipment. Many of these issues can be resolved quickly and easily, if the right steps are taken. It can be as simple as an informal chat with a manager. However, it’s vital that the correct procedure is followed when any complaint is raised. If not, you’re putting your business at risk.
We are also seeing complaints around harassment on the rise and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. These complaints are extremely serious and businesses are at risk if they cannot demonstrate the reasonable steps they can take as employers to prevent such acts. Line manager and company wide training is an essential component in mitigating risk.
If not handled correctly, complaints could eventually end up as tribunals, costing you lots of time and money, not to mention the stress it can bring to everyone involved. There’s also reputational damage to to consider, and with such a focus on attracting and retaining talent, you don’t want to damage your employer brand.
Here’s our top tips to avoid this:
If your employee raises a formal grievance, it’s important you follow a formal procedure. You are required by law to have a written grievance procedure in place. If you don’t, we strongly advice you to seek an experienced HR expert to support you with this. This should include information on who employees should contact, what the process involves, and response times for each stage.
Once an issue has been raised, you must take it seriously. This can not only protect you from a tribunal, but it also helps to maintain a good working relationship.
We recommend setting up a meeting with the employee to understand the issue more. They are entitled to bring someone to any meeting you set up regarding the issue. This person is there to act as a witness for your employee; it could be a trade union representative, colleague, or someone else relevant to their role. The meeting should be a two-way process, so while it’s important that you listen closely to their complaint and possible solutions, they should also be prepared to listen to any input you have on the situation, too.
You must keep a record of the meeting, even if it’s informal. Include details of the problem, the action you took when the problem was raised, what was talked about, next steps that was agreed, and the reasons for the these steps.
If neither party has reasonable solutions to resolve the concern, the employee will then have to submit a grievance letter to start the formal process.
The Grievance Investigation
Once you have received the grievance letter, you must conduct a formal investigation to gather any relevant information. Before you start the investigation, you should contact everyone involved and let them know how long this will take.
The person working on the investigation should have had no personal involvement in the matter at hand. It’s also crucial that everything is handled with confidentiality. In addition, witnesses should be informed that they are not to discuss the matter with any colleagues. And again, you should keep a record of anything discussed or found during the investigation.
Once you have all your findings and the investigation process is complete, it’s time to arrange a grievance hearing. You must inform everyone so they can prepare. Ideally, this should be within 5 days. This should give your employee the opportunity to explain their side in detail and, again, set out the outcome they would like to see.
The Grievance Hearing
The grievance hearing is where the staff member will discuss their grievance and provide evidence to support this. Everyone involved must attend this meeting. Staff are also entitled to bring along a colleague, union representative, or someone else relevant, as well as an interpreter or carer, where necessary.
During this time, you must discuss how the employee would like the issue resolved and what you can do as their employer to help. Similar to the initial meeting, you must record this and share with all attendees within the agreed timeframe.
After the hearing, you may need to to carry out further investigation, or you may be able to come to a conclusion. Any decisions you come to following the hearing must be shared with your employee, in writing, as soon as possible. You should also make it clear that they have a right to appeal your decision.
If your employee is not happy with the outcome, they have the right to appeal. If they do, you must hear their appeal without unreasonable delay. You should then arrange a meeting, and your employee has the right to be accompanied again. The only difference is that this meeting should be held by someone who wasn’t involved in the initial grievance. If you don’t have anyone experienced enough to take over In these cases, it’s appropriate to outsource HR support.
Your employee should be given the opportunity to explain why they disagree with your decision and what they think the outcome should be. It will then be up to the person hearing the appeal to decide whether it was handled correctly, and decide on a new outcome.
This article is a brief overview and there can be a lot more to consider when a grievance is raised, depending on the nature of the complaint. If you would like support with a grievance procedure, you can contact us on 01383 668 178 or email@example.com.