HR Question of the Week 2

Question

One of my clients has just received a grievance from a member of staff, how should they handle this?

Answer

Employers have an implied duty to deal with any grievances raised by employees even if there is no express contractual right. A grievance procedure gives employees the opportunity to redress any complaints they have at work and can range from allegations of bullying to pay queries. The actions of your client in response to the grievance should be guided by the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures; it is important your clients’ HR department and senior management team familiarise themselves with this.

Adherence to the Code is taken into consideration by an employment tribunal when making any decision involving an employer’s actions around a grievance procedure and can affect the compensation awarded to the employee. It is also a legal requirement that your client has an agreed grievance policy laid out in employee’s terms and conditions, which should also be followed. In addition, managers should be trained on how to carry out a grievance procedure, guaranteeing the process is consistent and transparent.

Now that a grievance has been raised, it may be useful for your client to firstly offer the employee the chance to resolve it informally by having an open discussion. Where this is not possible, for example, the employee does not wish to try the informal route, your client must initiate the formal grievance procedure.

To do this, your client should arrange a formal meeting between the individual raising the grievance and a senior member of the HR or management team. When deciding on who should chair the meeting it is important to remember that your client’s first choice may be the subject of the grievance, therefore it is best to have more than one option. The employee should be informed of their right to bring a companion with them to the meeting who can be either a colleague or trade union representative. During the meeting, the Chairperson should encourage the employee to explain the nature and detail of their grievance and how they believe it may be resolved. The Chairperson should document the items raised at the meeting for good record keeping.

Following the meeting, an investigation into the claims should be undertaken to get a better understanding of what happened. If further interviews are required these should take place without any unreasonable delay. Once all investigations have been carried out a decision should be made on whether the grievance is substantiated or not. This decision needs to be communicated to the employee in writing indicating, where necessary, what action will be taken by your client to resolve the grievance. The employee should be granted the chance to appeal if they are not satisfied with the decision. If an appeal is lodged your client’s appeal process should be initiated.

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