How do I deal with a grievance that an employee has raised?

We have seen a significant increase in the number of grievances that we are being asked to manage. Why this is, we are not entirely sure, but what we can be sure about, is that if not handled well, they can often lead to a constructive dismissal claim or discrimination claim from an employee.

By law, every company should have a grievance policy. The formal, written document should let employees know who they should contact with their grievance, the process of dealing with the grievance and how to appeal should they not be happy with the outcome of their grievance.  Here’s how you can manage an employee grievance for a timely resolution.

Make sure you follow the Grievance Procedure you have in place

The grievance procedure should be in the employee handbook, so make sure you read and familiarise yourself with the procedure.

Someone must take responsibility for receiving and acknowledging the grievance, this maybe the HR Department, HR Consultant or a nominated Director.

As the grievance might involve sensitive or personal matters, it is essential to focus on confidentiality while dealing with employees’ grievances, so think carefully about who to involve in dealing with the matter, as involving the least number of people prevents any potential breach in confidentiality.

You will need a minimum of three people involved;

  • Someone to investigate the grievance – this requires someone with high levels of integrity, empathy, emotional intelligence and questioning skills to really get to the root cause of the problem and review evidence thoroughly and write up a thorough investigation report.
  • Someone to chair the Grievance Hearing – with seniority and gravitas who is a good listener and with sound decision making skills and business experience
  • Someone to act as a point of appeal if required – this person should be more senior than the person who investigated the appeal or who chaired the Grievance Hearing

Conduct a thorough Grievance Investigation

It’s important that a full and proper investigation is carried out into the grievance/s raised. This may involve speaking with others, or reviewing internal documents or emails/phone calls etc.

Once the investigation is completed, a Grievance Investigation report is completed and sent to the employee, and a formal grievance hearing should be arranged.

Hold a formal Grievance Hearing

The employee with the grievance should be called to be present in the formal grievance hearing. The purpose of the hearing is as it suggests,  for the employee to put forward any evidence that backs up the complaint they have made and explain how they would like the problem to be resolved, and for the Chair/HR to “hear” what they have to say, so great listening skills required in the hearing.

Make your decision

Once you have held the hearing and considered what the employee has said and how they would like the matter to be resolved, and reviewed the grievance investigation report, you should make a decision about each of the points in their grievance.

You might decide to accept the grievance in whole or just agree with part of it or you may reject it altogether. It’s important that the outcome of their grievance is put in writing to them, and this should also confirm any actions that you will take.

The right of Appeal process

Your employee might not accept your decision and has the legal right of appeal and it should be clear in your policy who can be a point of appeal in your company.

The employee should write their appeal letter outlining why they are appealing. They can appeal if they feel the grievance process hasn’t been followed, or there has been some form of bias or unfairness during the process or they have new evidence to present.

An appeal hearing would then be held allowing the employee to provide any new evidence to support their appeal.

The outcome of the appeal should be given inwriting to the employee and they have no further right of appeal. However, they could decide to make an Employment Tribunal Claim if they are still unhappy.

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