Grievances refer to any complaint an employee may have that does not amount to bullying or harassment. For example, an employee may raise a grievance in relation to their salary, changes to their terms and conditions, or in regards to another employee or member of management.
The Grievances Code of Practice sets out minimum guidelines for dealing with a grievance. The code of practice sets out that grievance processes should be carried out in line with the principles of natural justice, which are as follows:
- All complaints will be fairly examined and processed.
- The right to be heard – details of the complaint must be outlined, along with details of any supporting information or documentation. All parties to the complaint need to have access to these details and also be given the right to respond.
- The employee has the right to be represented.
- ‘A person should not be a judge in their own case’, in other words, the decision maker should be impartial and open-minded with no pre-judgement. They should not be someone who has witnessed some part of the complaint.
Should a grievance be dealt with informally or formally?
Every case will depend on its own specific set of circumstances: some cases will be so serious that an informal route will not be suitable.
However, in other situations, an informal route can allow you to deal with the complaint efficiently, effectively and swiftly. It’s important to ask the employee from the outset how they would like the grievance to be dealt with.
When following a formal grievance procedure, the employer/management will meet with the aggrieved party and discuss their complaint.
The aggrieved party should provide details of their complaint in writing – but it’s important to note that if they’re not willing to do this, the view of the employment tribunals is that it’s not a sufficient reason for the employer not to investigate the grievance.
Upon receipt of the employee’s grievance, a thorough investigation of the matter should be carried out, followed by a formal hearing with the employee.
Once the company has received details of the grievance, they should consult with their employee handbook and carry out the procedure in line with their own internal policies.
If the formal process is used, the employee must be formally invited to a meeting to discuss their grievance. They should be given the right to be accompanied at this meeting by a trade union representative or a fellow colleague.
Management will decide on the appropriate action to be taken and will write to the employee to inform them if the grievance has been upheld or not, and the employee will be given the right of appeal.
If they decide to exercise this right, then the appeal will be held by another member of management who has had no dealings in the process so far.
If an employee would like to deal with the grievance informally, they should inform management of the details of the grievance.
If, for example, the employee does not like the way another employee is speaking to them, management can have an informal conversation with the other party, ask them to watch how they speak to their colleague and request that they apologise. If the informal route is unsuccessful then the formal route should be utilised.
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