Workplace grievances can arise at any time from any employee. It is very important for employers to approach grievances reasonably and fairly.

To help you, we have put together our top 10 tips on managing workplace grievances:

1. Consider Relevant Policies

When dealing with an employee's grievance it is advisable to take into account the following:

2. Formal or informal route?

Consider the most appropriate route – should the matter be dealt with formally under your grievance procedure, or is informal resolution a suitable option.

Be guided by your employee's wishes and by the nature of the grievance raised.

For example, if an employee has been offended by an off-hand comment made by another employee, an informal word with the employee in question may resolve the matter sufficiently.

However, a grievance alleging discrimination should always be thoroughly investigated, even if the employee is reluctant for it to be treated as a formal grievance.

3. Preliminary considerations

Consideration should be given at an early stage as to whether:

  • The grievance raises issues under other policies such as your whistleblowing, equal opportunities, anti-harassment or bullying, or stress at work policies, and whether any of those policies provide a more appropriate procedure.
  • The employee has a disability and, if so, whether you should make any reasonable adjustments to the grievance process.
  • The grievance raises issues that could potentially result in disciplinary action against another employee or employees.

4. Appropriate chairperson

If the matter needs to be dealt with as a formal grievance, you need to consider who should hold the position of grievance chairperson. You must ensure that anyone who is appointed into this role is suitable and appropriate, bearing in mind the seriousness or complexity of the grievance. In many cases this will be the employee’s line manager but in particularly complex cases, such as involving discrimination or whistleblowing complaints, it will generally be more appropriate to appoint a more senior individual and ideally someone who has appropriate training or an understanding of the complex issues.

It is important that the chairperson is not involved in any way in the issues raised in the grievance.

5. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is important throughout the grievance process.

Witnesses should be advised to not discuss the grievance or investigation with other employees or third parties.

Remember, however, the employee should be free to discuss the matter with their employee representative, should they have one.

6. Grievance meeting

A grievance meeting should be held as soon as possible after a grievance has been received.

In some cases it will be appropriate to hold the meeting shortly after receiving the grievance and then adjourn the meeting while the investigation is carried out. This approach may be particularly helpful if it would be beneficial to clarify the issues raised in the grievance before the investigation starts.

7. Right to be accompanied

The invitation to the grievance meeting should set out the employee's right to be accompanied to the grievance meeting by either a colleague or a trade union representative.

8. Investigate the grievance

The investigation should be conducted in a proportionate and sensitive manner.

An investigation is a fact-finding exercise to collect all the relevant information on the issues raised in the grievance. A properly conducted investigation will enable an informed decision on the grievance to be reached after a full consideration of all the relevant facts.

Any investigatory meetings to interview other witnesses should be held in private and notes should be taken of the meeting.

In addition to interviewing witnesses, consider whether physical evidence, such as CCTV or computer or phone records, may be relevant to the investigation.

9. The decision

Once a decision has been reached, the grievance meeting should ideally be reconvened and the action you have decided to take to resolve the grievance should be explained to the employee. While the decision must be given in writing in any event, it is usually better first done face-to-face and then confirmed in writing.

The employee should be advised of the fact that they have a right to appeal if they are not happy with the original decision.

10. Appeal

So far as possible, any appeal should be heard or chaired by someone who has not been previously involved. Ideally, they should be more senior than the chair of the grievance meeting and, where possible, outside their direct reporting line.

Employees have the same right to be accompanied at an appeal meeting as at a grievance meeting.


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