Many potential grievance issues can be resolved informally with ‘a quiet word’ and this is often the best way. That said, occasionally, employers may find that they are faced with a formal grievance matter, lodged with the employer through the Grievance Procedure.
A grievance (problem or concern) occurs where an employee is aggrieved about an action taken, or not taken, by their employer, line manager or another employee in relation to their employment. This could be an individual grievance or a group of employees with the same or similar issues.
The raising of a grievance should be seen as a positive step by the employee to remedy a situation. It is in everyone’s interest to ‘nip problems in the bud’ before they get out of hand and risk escalating into bigger issues costing much time, money and stress.
Every employer should have a published, written procedure for dealing with grievances. In addition, this should be supported with management training and guidance on how to implement it. These two aspects will ensure fairness and consistency which are paramount in such matters.
There are some key issues to consider when ensuring the effectiveness of a grievance procedure and its implementation:
Ensure all parties are clear on the nature of the grievance and, where appropriate, the potential remedy for which the employee is looking. Ideally the employee should put their grievance in writing to avoid any ambiguity.
If it is not possible to deal with the matter informally, every effort should be made to ensure that grievances are dealt with swiftly and without unreasonable delay. Reasonable timescales should either be incorporated in part of the procedure or alternatively agreed up front and documented with all relevant parties at the beginning of the process.
Ensure the grievance is looked into thoroughly. This could be carried out through one, or a series of meetings, with one or more people present depending on the complexities and nature of the grievance. The person conducting these meetings should be suitably experienced or trained to so do. Such meetings would usually be conducted by the employees Line Manager (unless the grievance is related to the Line Manager or more senior employee).
Where the grievance procedure is taking its course, the matter should be treated with confidentiality by all those involved, whilst recognising that the principles of ‘need to know’ must also apply.
Allow the employee to be represented at any meetings, as is their statutory right. This would be a work colleague or a trade union representative.
At every stage of the process it is imperative that accurate records are kept. It is advisable to have an impartial person present, to take a written record of what is said at meetings. Letters should be sent formally inviting people to meetings and detailing the outcomes of the meetings where appropriate. Copies of all correspondence should be kept on the employees personnel file for future reference.
The procedure must include an Appeals process. The employee should provide in writing the grounds for their appeal hearing and it should ideally be heard by a manager not previously involved in the case.
Finally, it really goes without saying, that it is imperative that the grievance procedure is followed and that the agreed outcomes from the process are followed up and actioned in a timely fashion.