Everything you wanted to know about…Grievances…but were too afraid to ask!

From time to time, every employer will receive a grievance from one of its employees. But what exactly are grievances and how should an employer respond?

To help employers, we have set out below some answers to some frequently asked questions about grievances.

What is a “grievance”?

Essentially, a grievance is any complaint from an employee about an issue regarding their employment. Grievances can relate to a wide range of matters, but they typically concern the employee’s treatment by their employer or their relationships with their colleagues.

Do I need a “grievance policy”?

It is highly recommended that you have one, as having in place a formal grievance policy provides an effective means by which employees can raise their concerns or problems and gives employers a way to resolve them in fairly.

Do all grievances need to be dealt with via a formal procedure?

Many grievances can be resolved informally, without the need for formal investigations and meetings. In fact, an attempt to resolve concerns informally will often be the first stage of an employer’s grievance procedure.

How should I investigate a grievance?

This will depend on the nature of the complaint, but will typically involve talking with witnesses, reviewing relevant documents (such as emails and messages) and speaking with the employee who has raised the grievance to ensure you have a full understanding of their grievance.

How do I formally respond to a grievance?

Giving the employee a full opportunity to explain their complaint and present evidence in support is key. This will usually take the form of a grievance meeting, at which the employee should be given the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative.

As the conclusion of the grievance, the outcome should be confirmed in writing and the employee should be given a right to appeal against the decision.

It is not uncommon for the resolution of a grievance to include additional measures, such as mediation between individuals or reassigning of individuals. Occasionally, upholding a grievance may also result in disciplinary proceedings being commenced against other employees, for example where there has been bullying or mistreatment of one employee by another.

Are there any other issues I need to consider?

Employers should ensure that anyone appointed to investigate and consider an employee’s grievance is fully trained on how to do so and that they have the full authority of the employer to make the necessary decisions.

Employers also need to be mindful of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and grievance Procedures, which states the following in relation to grievances:

  • employers and employees should deal with issues promptly, including not unreasonably delaying meetings or decisions;
  • employers should carry out any necessary investigations to establish the facts;
  • employees should be given the opportunity to put their case before any decisions are made;
  • employees should be able to be accompanied to grievances meetings; and
  • employees should have the right of appeal.

An unreasonable failure to follow the Code of Practice can result in an increase of up to 25% in relation to any compensation awarded in a subsequent Employment Tribunal claim.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the team at MLP Law with ideas about topics or for detailed advice in connection with any of the issues raised. You can reach us at employment@mlplaw.co.uk or @HRHeroUK or on 0161 926 9969.