Employers – How do you respond to a Grievance at work?

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Your Grievance Policy should set the process to be followed.

As a manager or employer, you should deal with a grievance at work by following your organisation’s grievance policy and process. If you doubt, take advice from an employment law solicitor.

Should I have a Grievance policy?

Yes! All employers should have a grievance policy.  You/it should tell your employees how to raise a grievance, including who they can contact to do so.  You should publish the grievance procedure so that all employees have full details of what to expect if they need to raise a grievance.  The grievance process is also an essential reference point for managers and HR to check they are responding appropriately.

How does an employee raise a Grievance?

You would expect an employee to raise a formal grievance in accordance with your policy and process – likely to ask for it in writing.

What should I do if an employee raises a Grievance?

If you receive a formal grievance form an employee this should trigger your grievance policy which should follow.  It is likely to include:-

  • Investigation
  • Hearing
  • Decision
  • Appeal

What is a Grievance Investigation?

Managers/HR should investigate the grievance as necessary and do so objectively and without any pre-judgement.  What is needed in terms of investigation will depend upon the nature of the grievance being raised.

What is a Grievance Hearing?

Following the investigation, a grievance meeting should be set.  It should take place as soon as possible after the grievance has been raised.  The hearing is an opportunity for employee and employer to explore issues around the problem.  Listening (by both employee and employer is where resolution is most likely to be found.

What should happen in a Grievance Hearing?

You (as the employer) should make sure that:-

  • Accompanied – allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative
  • Records – take full notes or record the grievance hearing
  • Listen – allow the employee to fully explain their grievance as they wish to
  • Documents – allow the employee to share any supporting documents they want to share
  • Resolution – allow the employee to explain how they want their complaint to be resolved
  • Impartial – remain impartial/objective
  • Pre-judge – NEVER prejudge the outcome!
  • AOB – check at the end that the employee has said everything they want to say
  • Breaks – allow breaks if appropriate (eg if the employee becomes distressed, or if they need to go away and review new information before continuing)

Listening is perhaps the most important thing to do when a Grievance is raised.

How to notify an employee of the outcome of a Grievance Hearing

After the grievance meeting, you should fully consider what has been established, and make a decision on each point of the complaint.  It’s not necessary to uphold every element and a grievance decision can be a mix of upheld and rejected points, with a final conclusion on action(s) to take by way of resolution.  Notify your employee of the outcome in writing

Can an employee appeal a Grievance decision?

The employee should always be allowed to appeal if they are unhappy with any part of the grievance decision.

Can you be sacked after raising a Grievance?

It’s always up to employers whether to dismiss an employee – the question is whether the dismissal is fair or unfair.  So, yes, employees can be sacked after raising a grievance.  However, it’s likely to be pretty risky to sack someone who will argue that they were dismissed because they raised a grievance, even if it is actually for an unrelated reason.

On the other hand, if the employee has raised spurious grievances, then that could be a conduct issue, making disciplinary proceedings appropriate.

What happens after a Grievance is upheld?

If any part of the grievance is upheld, you should consider whether disciplinary action might be appropriate against other employee(s) found to have mistreated the employee who raised the grievance. View our ‘How do you deal with disciplinary issues‘ guide for more details about how to deal with a disciplinary process.

You’ll need to consider whether relations can be restored, and discuss with the employee how this might be achieved, perhaps via workplace mediation.  If it is clear that relations can’t be restored, and especially if the employee has asserted that they may be entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal, then it may be worth getting legal advice on whether a negotiated exit with a settlement agreement would be appropriate.

What type of Grievances does the ACAS Code of Practice apply to?

The Acas Code of practice applies to all complaints by employees about something at work. Any tailored grievance process we prepare for your organisation would comply with the Acas Code.

Need more help?

If you need more help with the subjects covered here then do reach out to our expert online employment law solicitors.  You can email us at employment@qlaw.co.uk or call 03300 020 863.

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