A recent survey reveals that over the last few years 30% of employers have seen a rise in employees raising grievances. The most common subjects of these grievances are bullying and harassment and relationships with managers and colleagues. How should employers deal with grievances effectively?
Experience has shown that employers often find grievances trickier to deal with than disciplinary processes. There are a few reasons for this; disciplinary procedures are generally employer led and involve proving or disproving an allegation and deciding on an appropriate outcome. With a grievance you need to consider the wishes of the person who has raised the grievance and decide if the desired outcome is possible, try to maintain working relationships between those involved and keep the aggrieved employee informed whilst not disclosing any confidential information (such as if you have decided to undertake a disciplinary procedure into the person they have complained about).
One of the most important things is to try to resolve grievances informally. ACAS confirms this approach and states that an employer should aim to settle most grievances in this way. If an employee raises a grievance verbally it should be assumed that they wish this to be resolved informally. Managers should have in mind: could this be resolved by having a conversation with the employee who is being complained about? Could they be put in a room together to explain their respective points of view? These options should be explored. If an outcome is delivered verbally a note should be kept of that conversation so that there is a paper trail.
Grievance policies should state that informal methods will be considered before the formal process is triggered, but that does not prevent an employee from stating that they wish to proceed straight to a formal process. In order to do this they should submit a grievance in writing. This will trigger an investigation, grievance hearing and written outcome.
It is crucial that employers respond calmly and with an open mind when faced with grievances. Mismanaging the response can fan the flames and unnecessarily escalate the situation.
One of the key takeaways for employers is to make sure their policies are fit for purpose. Even more importantly managers need to be familiar with the processes and trained on how to handle grievances appropriately.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.