When an employee is unhappy with something in the workplace it is important that the problem is resolved for both the individual and the employer. Taking action promptly to resolve any issues can save a huge amount of time and can prevent problems spiralling out of control. Fairness and consistently should form the basis of your procedure.
Formal or Informal?
Many minor issues can be resolved informally and usually via a discussion between the employee and their manager. This the most preferable way of dealing with workplace problems and underlines the need for consistent good communication within your business
The formal procedure will need to be used where an employee has written to the employer outlining their grievance formally. Grievances which reach this stage are generally more serious complaints.
Who should hear the grievance?
Unlike a disciplinary hearing the grievance could be heard by the person who has also investigated the grievance. The chairperson should be impartial and should not have been involved in any of the issues the employee is complaining about.
Effective handling of a grievance
Having a clear grievance policy is essential as well as making sure that you follow it if a grievance is raised by an employee.
There are three stages to consider; the investigation, the hearing and the appeal. An impartial person should manage each stage to keep things fair and consistent.
If you receive a grievance (usually in writing), arrange for a grievance hearing to be held as soon as possible. Let the employee know that they have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative of their choice. This applies to any appeal hearing as well as to the grievance hearing.
Ensure that the employee gets a fair hearing at the meeting. Ask the individual what outcome they are seeking as a result of the grievance. Ask yourself if you can realistically deliver that outcome. If you need to investigate the issue further then you can adjourn the hearing.
Keep notes of the meeting and keep all correspondence, recordings and notes.
Finally, decide what action (or not) to take after the hearing and communicate that to the employee, preferably in writing. It is important to try to explain why you have taken that decision.
Don’t forget to tell the employee that they have a right of appeal and who they should contact to raise that appeal and in what timescale. It is also best to put this in writing. A different person, also impartial, should hear the appeal. The appeal is not a rehearing of the grievance but to decide if the procedure was unfair or unreasonable. The appeal chairperson can however state that a rehearing takes place if they feel that the procedure was unsatisfactory.
Employment tribunals have little time for employers that don’t handle grievances properly so follow your own procedure or the Acas Code on grievances and ensure that your managers understand the importance of taking grievances seriously.
Do get in touch with Liz Jewer if you need guidance on grievance procedures or policies on 07803 007591.