Grievances are an inevitable part of any workplace. Every employee will experience at least one problem in their working life, either an issue with their working conditions or a colleague.
Many employees will be unaware of their formal right to raise a grievance to address a problem or complaint they have at work, and the majority of workers will wait for a review meeting with their line manager before mentioning a grievance.
If your review meetings are scheduled quarterly, it could be three months before an employee decides to raise an issue.
Your workplace grievance policy should ideally be shared with new employees within an employee handbook for easy access and future referral. The policy should make them aware of the procedures for handling grievances with examples of types of grievances:
- Bullying and harassment;
- Relations at work;
- Working conditions;
- Changes in the organisation;
- Health and safety concerns;
- Terms and conditions of the employment.
Handling A Grievance
Wherever possible, it’s advised to resolve the grievance informally. However for issues which cannot be resolved informally or they are of a serious nature it wouldn’t be appropriate to treat it informally, a formal grievance is advised. You need to ask your employee to highlight the concerns in writing, along with their proposed solutions, if any and hold a formal grievance meeting.
Formal Grievance Meeting
The employee should be invited to the meeting by way of a formal letter, notifying them of their right to be accompanied at the meeting.
The objective of the meeting should be to identify all causes of the grievance to prevent further reoccurrence of the problem, while aiming to solve it. This can be achieved by compiling questions to ask at the grievance interview, bearing in mind this will be a sensitive and emotional time for the employee to discuss or answer questions that require them to recall an incident.
Use strong listening cues to make the employee feel they are being listened to; this will help them feel relaxed and give as many details as possible.
Use the end of the meeting as an opportunity to summarise the problem and the answers given, as well as recapping the available solutions.
The employee should be notified of indicative timescales based on any further actions such as investigations that need to take place.
Following appropriate investigations, communicate the outcomes and decisions back to the employee in a formal letter. Further actions should be outlined if necessary, including the right to appeal.
The wider implications of any decisions need to be considered, such as what impact the outcomes will have on other employees and whether existing policies will be contradicted. Most importantly, give special consideration to how the employee will react to the decision.
Never ignore a grievance as it could lead to a tribunal claim.