What do I do if one of my employees raises a grievance?

The number of employment tribunal claims being issued by disgruntled employees is currently on the rise following the abolition of employment tribunal fees – declared unlawful last year.  Similarly this is also leading to an increase in the number of grievances being raised by employees in the workplace, sometimes as a prelude to issuing legal proceedings.

These days many employees are only too aware of their employment rights and their legal right to raise a formal grievance at work.    Employees are one click away on their laptop from finding out about such rights.

In simple language, a grievance is a complaint that can be raised by an employee at any time during the course of their employment.  A grievance can be about any aspect of the employment and can be about working conditions, pay and hours of work, and colleagues.

It is a statutory right for an employee to raise a grievance  and ACAS have issued guidance and a voluntary code of practice setting out the minimum requirements in implementing a fair grievance procedure.

Any failure to follow these ACAS minimum standards can result in an uplift in any employment tribunal compensatory award up to 25% if for example an unfair dismissal claim is issued by the employee and is successful.

It is also a legal requirement for all employers in the UK to set out their grievance procedure and to issue it to all employees.  Usually this forms the subject of written employment particulars or a contract of employment.

Here are some handy tips on how to successfully deal with any  grievance(s) issued by an employee and to ensure compliance with those minimum requirements:-

  1. If the grievance is minor then see if it can be dealt with informally without the need to go through any formal procedure.
  2. If it is not possible to deal with the grievance(s) informally then it will need to be treated formally. Ensure that you follow any written grievance policy that you have issued and that it is compliant with ACAS recommendations and that all managers are trained and are familiar with it.
  3. The employee needs to present their grievance(s) in writing and in full setting out the issues clearly and with any relevant examples.
  4. If you have the benefit of HR support then do include them in the process so that they can communicate with the employee and arrange the grievance meeting.
  5. As soon as the grievance is received the employer should investigate the matter and undertake a fact finding exercise to establish the full facts. If the grievance(s) involves other members of staff then they should be informed and given an opportunity to provide their own evidence.
  6. After the investigation the employer should invite the employee who raised the grievance to a grievance meeting. The employee should be given a full opportunity to expand on their grievance and to explain their complaint(s).  It is also important to ask the employee what they are seeking as a resolution to their grievance.  The meeting needs to be genuine and not a sham exercise.
  7. Remember that the employee is entitled to be accompanied at any grievance meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative even if the company does not recognise the trade union.
  8. After the grievance meeting the employer will need to go away and consider the evidence and information and whether to uphold or reject the employee’s grievance(s).
  9. Any decision should be communicated to the employee in writing with full reasons as soon as possible.
  10. If the grievance is upheld in full or in part then the employer needs to inform the employee what action it proposes to take and how it will be implemented in order to resolve the grievance.
  11. If the grievance is not upheld then the employee should be informed in the letter that there is a right of appeal.
  12. The employee should be given 5 or more working days to issue an appeal setting out their grounds of appeal in full and in writing to a named individual.
  13. Any appeal hearing should be dealt with by an independent and impartial senior manager not involved with the original decision. The appeal hearing should be in the form of a review not a rehearing, but can do so if there are any procedural flaws in the initial process.
  14. At the end of the appeal the employer will need to consider the issues and reach a decision. The decision and reasons need to be communicated to the employee in full and in writing.
  15. Arrange full minutes of the grievance and appeal meetings as evidence and place on the employee’s HR file. Remember to provide the employee with copies of the minutes.

If Employers follow these guidelines then they will be able to successfully handle a grievance and hopefully minimise any legal exposure in the event that the complaint ends up in the employment tribunal.

If you require any advice on issuing and implementing a grievance policy then contact Steven Eckett our Head of Employment and Senior Associate.  seckett@meaby.co.uk

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