Before we talk through how to deal with grievances at work let us explore what a grievance is.
A grievance is an issue, complaint or problem that an employee may have with their employer. It can relate to any aspect of their work, pay, treatment, hours and holidays.
ACAS states: “Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers. This does not apply to redundancy dismissals or the non-renewal of fixed-term contracts on their expiry.”
If an employee does ‘raise a grievance’, then how should employers deal with it?
ACAS (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) are an independent public body that receives funding from the government. They publish a Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures which, when exploring how to deal with grievances at work, must be considered and referred to.
The ACAS Codes of Practice set the minimum standard of fairness that workplaces should follow. Should a case reach Employment Tribunal how the company followed the Code of Practice is taken into account and financial awards can be increased by up to 25% if they have not done so – ‘for unreasonable failure to comply with any provision of the Code’ ACAS.
This can also apply to employees with a reduction of up to 25% of compensation if they are deemed to have unreasonably failed to follow the guidance.
The Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures lay out expectations and guidelines and this will underpin the advice explored in this blog.
Where possible it is encouraged that an informal resolution is sought. Encourage employees to speak with their line managers or others within the business to talk through their concerns. This will allow a timely resolution which will enable all to move on.
It’s important to ask the right questions such as ‘how would you like this resolved?’ so that time can be spent focussing on the employee’s main concerns or issue and resolution. There are times where this option may not be appropriate for example if the concern relates to serious allegations such as sexual harassment or discrimination.
If an informal resolution cannot be found an employee can raise a ‘formal grievance’. This should happen in writing with the employee stating the nature of the grievance. Formal grievances are commonly submitted in a written format in a letter or email. If a written grievance is received the Company Grievance Procedure / ACAS Code of Practice should be instigated without unreasonable delay.
Hold a Meeting
The first step will be to acknowledge the grievance and invite the employee to a formal meeting at which they have the right to a representative such as a work colleague or TU representative.
During this meeting the employee is given the opportunity to provide more information and evidence of the complaint. The role of the grievance officer is to firstly ascertain what the employees preferred outcome is and then clarify points raised.
The next step is to investigate the complaint objectively and thoroughly to ascertain the facts and identify if and how the grievance can be resolved. Decide on the appropriate actions.
Confirm outcome in writing
Without unreasonable delay. Your policy should confirm timelines, however, if you need to conduct further investigations or need more time for deliberation, communicate this to the employee. In the written outcome you must provide the employee the right to appeal.
Right to Appeal
Where an employee feels that their grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved or they do not feel that the process was fair they can appeal the outcome letting their employer know the grounds for their appeal. This should be held by an independent person and the employee has a statutory right to be accompanied.
Again, the outcome should then be communicated in writing without unreasonable delay.
What happens if as a company we don’t manage grievances in the right way?
An employee that does not feel that their grievance has been resolved or dealt with effectively could resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal. If there are allegations of discrimination this could also be claimed at tribunal.
The impact of not dealing with grievances in the right way can not only be financial but also reputational. The impact on productivity can also be affected with low morale, high labour turnover and high absence rates. It can impact on the mental wellbeing of all involved.
So, in summary…
Follow your company procedure
As with any workplace practice it is important that good solid communication and a full and fair procedure is followed.
A workplace should have a comprehensive Grievance procedure in place, if this is not the case refer to the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures to ensure that you are managing grievances fairly and consistently and protecting the business from costly compensation claims.
Have good solid communication
Encourage your managers to have an open-door policy; encourage feedback from your teams and have a culture of resolution. As a manager, be aware of what is going on around you and ask questions if you feel something is not quite right. Good communication and a focus on ‘nipping things in the bud’ before they escalate can allow employers to manage concerns before an employee feels that their only option is to ‘raise a grievance’.
Train your managers in having difficult conversation and facing into issues and concerns. Give them the confidence to talk to their teams. Educate your managers in how to manage grievances in line with the grievance procedure and be sure that they are aware of your grievance policy and their responsibility in instigating this where required.
As a company recording the number of grievances and the types of grievances will support you in identifying if there are key themes or areas that can be addressed, and learnings taken. It is also important to be able to review how grievances were dealt with to support consistency across the organisation.
As with all people management the foundation is good solid communication. This and fairness, consistency, robust policies and well-trained managers!
If you have any questions related to dealing with grievances in the workplace or HR services, then feel free to contact us using the methods below.
With over 20 years HR generalist experience across all disciplines, Sarah has worked across a number of business sectors and understands the importance of robust and practical HR processes and trained, motivated and engaged people in delivering business success.
As Wurkplace’s Head of HR, she is passionate about both providing the best HR service to our Clients as well as recruiting, developing and retaining the best team.