Staff complaints need careful and proper handling. A grievance may concern an employee’s role, their workplace or even another member of staff. Whether you’re an HR professional, an office manager or the owner of the business, your aim in dealing with the grievance should be to resolve the issue quickly and effectively. You need to ensure that your employee gets a fair hearing and outcome, and avoid putting the business through a lengthy or costly employee tribunal. Here are five key actions to deal with a workplace grievance.

1. Initiate the grievance procedure

By law, every company should have a formal, written grievance procedure. This written procedure should tell employees whom to contact if they have an issue and should set out the steps of the process and the time limits for each stage.

In many instances, the first step of the procedure may involve an informal discussion to see if the issue can be easily solved. If it can’t, the employee will need to initiate the formal process by submitting a grievance in writing. 

2. Investigate the grievance

While not always necessary, you may need to take some time to investigate the complaint. In particular, if the issue involves other members of staff, they will need to be notified and given a chance to explain their positions or to give their own evidence. Once you’ve completed your investigations, you can arrange a grievance hearing. You’ll need to inform all relevant parties, so that they can make their own preparations. 

3. Hold a grievance hearing

The next key action is to hold the formal meeting where the employee will set out their grievance and provide any evidence to back up their case. All parties should attend this grievance hearing. Employees have the right to bring along a colleague or union representative. The employee should also be invited to explain how they would like their issue to be resolved and what outcome they are seeking. You should arrange for formal notes to be taken at this meeting, which you can then circulate to all parties afterwards. 

4. Make your decision and inform the employee

After the meeting, you will make your decision. You may decide to uphold the staff member’s grievance in full or in part, or you may reject it. If you uphold it, or parts of it, you need to identify the action that will be taken. Write to the employee, telling them what your decision is. Explain the reasons for your decision and advise them what actions you will take and what actions they should take. 

5. Further action

If the employee does not accept the decision, they have the right to an appeal. Again, your policy should outline the appeals process that will be followed when an employee wants to take the grievance further.

The employee should request in writing that their appeal be heard and inform you what their grounds for appeal are. Where possible, to provide impartiality, the appeal should be heard by another manager or director, and one who was not involved in the first meeting. At the appeal hearing, you can examine the reasons for the appeal and any new evidence. Again, after the hearing, you should write to the employee, informing them of your decision and the reasons for it. If your employee still does not accept your decision, they can pursue mediation or make a claim to an employment tribunal. 

It’s never nice to have to deal with a workplace grievance. Whatever the cause, and wherever the blame may lie, at minimum it means that someone within your company is unhappy. And that is not a productive situation in the workplace. Following these actions will help you to resolve the conflict and respond to any problems as quickly and simply as possible.

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About The Author

Mel is the Digital Marketing Manager at breatheHR. She regularly contributes insights into current SME and HR trends as well as reporting on breatheHR news and updates.