Grievances are an inevitable part of employing staff, and whilst they can be seen as a pain for some managers, they do allow a business to try and nip concerns, problems or complaints in the bud, before they grow into something which can be much bigger and much more time consuming.
Employees should be encouraged to raise grievances as early as possible, but informally in the first instance. Whether it be an allegation of bullying by a manager, a difficult relationship with a colleague, working conditions, or some other complaint, employers and line managers should look into issues as quickly as possible before the need for a formal procedure arises. It is important for both employer and employee to approach a grievance with an open mind and avoid a hostile or unreasonable attitude.
Dealing with a formal grievance will involve a fair and objective investigation, often prior to any meeting, however if any part of the grievance is unclear and requires clarification, it is good practice to hold an initial meeting in order to clarify the issues. Grievances can sometimes be lengthy, as aggrieved employees can use their grievance letter to simply air all frustrations and it can often be difficult to see the wood from the trees. In this instance, it is beneficial for the employer to try and clarify the precise issues with the employee and focus their concerns, which will make the investigation process a lot smoother!
Employees have the right to be accompanied at any formal grievance meeting by a colleague or union representative. There is no specific right to be accompanied for anyone being interviewed as a witness as part of a grievance, but employers may consider allowing this.
The outcome of a grievance can often be disciplinary proceedings, for example if allegations of bullying have been upheld. Employers must remember not to jump to the conclusion of disciplining alleged perpetrators, until the grievance has been investigated and an outcome reached.
Employees also have the right to appeal a grievance decision, ideally to someone more senior but in any event, someone independent.
It’s unfortunately common for employees to raise grievances part-way through a disciplinary process, in an attempt to stop or delay a disciplinary decision being made. There is no hard and fast rule for concurrent disciplinary and grievance processes anymore, and the ACAS Code allows for a disciplinary process to be temporarily suspended when a grievance is raised, as well as dealing with both issues concurrently if they are related. It will therefore be down to the employer to consider the most appropriate way of dealing with such matters, depending on the particular facts.
Likewise, an unfounded grievance could become a disciplinary matter if the employee has been dishonest in their grievance or raised it maliciously.
Since the introduction of protected conversations in July 2013, grievances have become more common as a tactic in order to prompt settlement discussions or gain additional leverage in existing discussions. Even if settlement discussions are taking place in the background, employers should still consider continuing with a grievance investigation or procedure, just in case a settlement cannot be negotiated as it will be very difficult to explain the delay in dealing with the grievance to a Tribunal!
In smaller businesses or cases where a grievance involves senior staff, it can often be difficult to find someone appropriate to deal with investigations and meetings, especially if an appeal is also submitted. As with disciplinary procedures, it is open to a business to branch out and use resources within associated companies and/or bring in external consultants to deal with grievances and certainly, this can support an employer in showing that a grievance was dealt with fairly and appropriately.
View HR have a wealth of experience when it comes to grievance investigations, meetings and appeals and can provide advice and assistance at every stage of the process. Gemma Murphy, Director commented “dealing with grievances properly and with an open mind, can provide employers with a good opportunity to take stock and to heal issues… Often, irrespective of the outcome of the grievance, investigation findings may provide some valuable learning points for a business!”
For additional information and advice, contact us on 01425 205391 or at email@example.com. Alternatively, visit www.viewhr.co.uk to find out more about ViewHR’s services.