A grievance is when a worker has a problem or concern that they want to raise with their employer. It can relate to most areas of their employment – the work they’re being assigned, the conditions, problems with their colleagues – and should include a clear expression of what resolution they would ideally like.
Before a formal grievance is raised, employees should normally have raised their concerns on an informal basis, and this is when most grievances are resolved – it’s in the best interests of the management, as well as the employee, to see grievances as quickly as possible.
Employers should take the time to discuss the nature of a grievance with their staff, and reassure them that they will treat the matter seriously (without giving any commitment on the likely outcomes, as you need to manage expectations carefully). There will often be more than one side to the story, so as an employer, you will then need to manage the situation, ensuring the workers are comfortable that you have treated their concerns & views seriously, even if you didn’t resolve the matter in the way they would have preferred.
On those occasions that a grievance is not resolved, an employee will put their grievance in writing (your Disciplinary & Grievance Policies may include a standard form for this purpose).
Employers are expected to act promptly to formal grievances, making decisions without unreasonable delay. An early action will be to arrange a formal grievance hearing. These should:
- Be held in private
- Wherever possible, be heard by a manager that is not directly involved in the grievance
- Allow the employee the right to a companion
- Be open to discussing the grievance, not dismissing the employee’s concerns
A resolution to the grievance should be determined carefully, and employers should then confirm they have taken appropriate action, while avoiding disclosing more than necessary – if the employer decides to take disciplinary action against another employee, this should not be stated; simply advise the aggrieved employee that you are taking management action. Employers should also provide the worker an opportunity to appeal against their decision where a decision is taken that the grievance will not be resolved in the manner suggested by the worker.
Employees will occasionally attempt to use a grievance as an appeal against a disciplinary sanction. This is not the appropriate mechanism for dealing with these appeals, and employers should simply respond to the grievance, reminding employees of the disciplinary procedures, and inviting a disciplinary appeal where appropriate.
Failure to Follow a Grievance Procedure
Employers are expected to treat grievances seriously – no matter how insignificant the matter may appear to the employer, you have a duty towards your employees, and they clearly have strong feelings about the matter raised.
In relevant cases, if an employer fails to deal with a grievance properly, an employment tribunal can adjust any awards made by as much as 25%.
For further advice or assistance, if your business needs to have their grievance procedures reviewed, or you need to order a grievance procedure, please contact Employment Law Clinic: