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Handling Grievances

This employment guide sets out how you should respond if a member of staff raises a formal ‘grievance’.

Introduction

However supportive or enlightened you may feel that you are as an employer, it is inevitable that you will face situations where your employees are unhappy about some aspect of their employment.

This may be either something for which you are directly responsible or it may be the conduct or behaviour of other people (staff - or even your customers!) towards a member of staff. You have a duty of care to protect your employees from harassment, bullying or victimisation.

It is important that in such cases you have a process in place which encourages your staff to raise such issues and, where you believe that an employee has genuine grounds for a complaint, that the grievance is fully investigated and appropriate action taken where necessary.

Grievance process

The first thing that you should do is to arrange to meet informally with the employee to discuss the basis of any complaint and to find out what outcome he or she is seeking from the grievance process.

In some cases employees may be happy for the matter to be dealt with informally. If they want to invoke a formal grievance process, we recommend that it should include the following stages:

Grievance hearing invite

If your employee has requested a full grievance hearing, you should write to him or her requesting full written details of the grievance. Once you have received this you should write to the employee confirming the date, time and venue of the grievance hearing, who will be chairing the hearing and details of any note taker if one is to be present.

Grievance hearing

This is the most important stage of the grievance process and it is where some employers fail. This then places them at considerable risk of being accused of not treating a grievance seriously or fairly. This can be a costly mistake if an employee subsequently takes you to an employment tribunal and even more so if they ultimately win the case.

To avoid this risk the grievance hearing should:

  • Allow the employee to fully present the grievance.
  • Share any evidence that you obtained if you have conducted any pre-meeting investigation.
  • Clarify what outcome the employee is seeking if the grievance is upheld.
  • Fully document matters discussed and responses received. These should be written up after the meeting, with a copy provided to the employee.

Outcome

Before you make a decision about how you will deal with the matter, you should adjourn the meeting to review the evidence and the grounds of the employee’s grievance. It is good practice to call HR:4UK, we will be more than happy to discuss your views and give an opinion. Once you have made your decision, reconvene the meeting and tell your employee what you have decided.

Appeal

If you decide to reject the grievance then you should tell the employee why you reached this decision and inform him or her of the right of appeal. This should be confirmed in writing following the meeting.

If you decide to uphold the grievance, the nature of the grievance will determine what action you should take.

If the grievance relates to the behaviour and conduct of another employee, you need to be careful how you explain to the employee who raised the grievance what action you intend taking. You have a duty of care to protect the privacy and confidentiality of your other staff. We suggest that in such cases you should seek professional and expert advice from HR:4UK.

Getting it right

The penalties imposed by an employment tribunal for failing to deal properly with a grievance can be substantial.

HR:4UK can help you to ensure that your grievance procedure is both thorough and fair.

For further help and advice, speak to one of our advisors by calling 01455 444222 or complete our online enquiry click here and an advisor will contact you shortly.