If an issue an employee raises with you cannot be resolved informally then a formal grievance procedure kicks in and it is advisable to have a policy in place – you are then clear on the steps to follow and the employee can understand them too. You can follow the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures if you don’t have a policy but having your own policy is advisable.
If you don’t follow a fair and full procedure then any case which reaches the employment tribunal could go against you regardless of the merits of the original grievance raised.
When should I handle a complaint informally?
If you feel an issue can be resolved informally and the employee agrees then that is definitely preferable and it is a good way to nip a complaint in the bud. You can also use mediation if necessary, this can stop matters escalating and can save you time in the long run. I am an accredited mediator so do let me know if you need my services to help to resolve a conflict in the workplace.
Who should hear a grievance?
A senior person from the organisation should ideally hear the grievance but an external HR consultant such as myself could hear it too. If you have a policy, this would outline who could potentially chair a grievance hearing and a grievance appeal hearing.
The importance of listening
It is important to listen to what the employee has to say and consider carefully what may be done to assist or if there is no case to answer, both when handing a grievance informally and formally. There could be a simple solution to a grievance such as changing a reporting line, increasing salary, separating warring employees to different areas of the business, disciplining another employee, rectifying an unfair practice, improving working conditions, decreasing workload etc.
Offer the right of appeal
If the grievance is not upheld then the employee should have the right to appeal the decision and the procedure for this should be outlined in your grievance policy. The employee should provide reasonable reasons for appealing the grievance outcome such as the employee feeling that the issue they have raised has not been addressed properly, Acas or company procedures were not followed, new evidence etc.
Mediation to help resolve issues
If you feel mediation could help to resolve a complaint from one of your team then do get in touch. As a mediator, I will conduct meetings with the stakeholders who are in a situation of conflict or disagreement. The objective is to open a dialogue on the issue and to reconcile via the mediator. The process would be voluntary and the aim is to find middle ground. Occasionally only one party will agree to mediation and that can also be helpful in certain situations.
The key points when considering whether your procedure is fair is to allow for informal resolution, decide who would hear a grievance and a grievance appeal, allow the employee a companion (a colleague or accredited union representative) to accompany them to the meeting, giving enough notice so there is time for the employee to prepare for hearings, using fair timescales with regard to appealing and to communicate outcomes in writing.
Contact Liz Jewer on 07803 007591 if you need guidance on your grievance procedure.