Grappling with grievance issues

Each has its own unique circumstances and requirements but fundamentally all need handling in the same way.

Much as with disciplinary situations, there is guidance in the form of the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures which sets out what a fair procedure should include Acas Guide on discipline and grievances at work

What I want to share with you here are some things to consider as a manager in this situation – call it my ‘watch outs’ in a grievance process.

Follow the five step process

1.      The employee should let you know the nature of the grievance – this should be in writing and without unreasonable delay setting out the nature of the grievance.

2.      Hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the grievance – this is a formal meeting to allow the employee to explain their grievance and how they think it should be resolved. You should also give consideration to adjourning the meeting for any investigation that may be necessary.

3.      Allow the employee to be accompanied at the meeting – the employee is allowed to be accompanied at the meeting (and at any appeal meeting) by a fellow employee, a trade union representative or an official employed by a trade union.

4.      Decide on appropriate action – decide on what action, if any, is to be taken and advise the employee in writing.  Don’t forget to give them the right of appeal

5.      Appeal – likewise with the original complain the appeal need to be in writing with clear reasons (grounds) why they are appealing.  Don’t forget the appeal should be dealt with impartially and wherever possible by a manager who has not previously been involved in the case. The outcome of the appeal should be given to the employee in writing.

Easy right? Wrong! Given emotions are often high, anecdotes become facts and human frailty/nature comes into play.  So here’s my next watch outs

2.      The employee goes sick or is sick when they raise the issue

Where the employee is unable to attend the grievance meeting for health reasons, consider alternative ways to deal with the issues. Maybe hold the grievance meeting on neutral territory or at the employee’s home or even consider holding the meeting by telephone. I would allow them to submit a more detailed written grievance statement detailing ALL the issues and witnesses. One final thing may be to allow the employee to send along a representative to act on their behalf. But tread carefully. It may also be useful to get a medical report from their GP confirming they are fit to attend a short meeting with you. 

3.      The employee raises a grievance during a disciplinary process

This has happened way too often in my experience and frequently when they are suspended on full pay pending the disciplinary hearing being arranged. Call me a cynic, but are they just trying to delay the inevitable? Or have they genuine cause for concern? That’s up to you to discover during investigations.  However, the disciplinary process should be temporarily suspended in order to deal with the grievance.  Where the two issues are related though, it may be appropriate to deal with them concurrently.

4.      The employee brings a companion who is actually a witness to the events

I would always ask the employee to advise you who they are bringing to the meeting in advance, that way you can consider if that person is suitable. You could suggest they bring an alternative person if their presence may prejudice natural ‘justice’ but be careful of that as it may be found at a later date in a tribunal to have been unfair, so consider it carefull 

5.      The grievance is about bullying, discrimination, harassment or whistle-blowing

Bear in mind these are highly sensitive issues and you may elect to use an alternative process if the company has such separate procedures for dealing with these issues. These could be a bullying and harassment procedure, a public interest disclosure procedure, or an equal opportunities discrimination procedure.

6.      More than one person has the issue

This is where a collective grievance and these grievances should be handled in accordance with the employer’s collective grievance process, if they have one, as the ACAS Code does not apply to collective grievances raised on behalf of two or more employees by a recognised trade union representative or other appropriate workplace representative.  If you don’t have a collective grievance process you could follow the basis of the five step process above and that should stand you in good stead if the matter gets taken further.

So have I opened your eyes, or just scared you?  The former I hope.  For more help and advice about grievance issues contact us at www.threedomsolutions.co.uk   or follow us on twitter @3domSolutions

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