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Handling of Grievance Procedures

Handling grievances at work is part of employee management and business operations. It also includes knowing how to set up a grievance procedure and hold a grievance hearing.

Employees often try informal methods to resolve a concern or problem.

But, they can make a formal grievance complaint to their employer if that process fails.

That means businesses must have a written formal grievance procedure in place.

You should share it with your staff showing how the procedure works and how long the process takes.

There are further steps to take after you set up a grievance hearing.

Having heard the evidence, you must then give your decision in writing to your employee. They have a legal right to appeal your decision if they are still unsatisfied with the outcome.

Workplace Grievance Procedure

There is a long list of employment laws that employers must follow. The list includes setting out a workplace grievance procedure. Employers must then share it in writing with all their employees.

As a rule, you will the grievance procedure in the statement of employment or noted in a staff handbook. Either way, it must include:

  • The name of a person the employee should contact about any grievances at work.
  • How they can contact this designated person.

Extra information written in a workplace grievance procedure should also include:

  • An explanation of procedures if a workplace problem does not get resolved informally. It should say there will be a meeting (grievance hearing) with the aggrieved employee.
  • Clear set out time limits for each stage of the grievance process.
  • Identification of another person if the normal contact is already involved in the dispute.
  • An explanation of the steps to appeal a grievance decision.
  • Information stating that people can go with employees to any meetings. A work colleague or union representative can accompany an employee.
  • An outline of what happens if a grievance gets raised while taking disciplinary action.

Most employers make their disciplinary procedures as part of an employment contract. But, an employee can make a breach of contract claim against you if you fail to follow those procedures.

Acas Code of Practice

Note: Not following the Acas code is not illegal. But, problems can arise if someone wins an employment tribunal against you. Their award could be up to 25% higher if you failed to follow the code.

At a Grievance Hearing

How to Prepare for the Hearing

Employers should carry out some important steps before holding a grievance hearing, such as:

  1. Provide notice to the employee so they can prepare their case.
  2. Carry out a full investigation where necessary. You may need to take statements from any witnesses who cannot attend the hearing.
  3. Clarify that the employee can choose to bring a colleague or union representative with them.
  4. Arrange for another manager to attend as well. That helps to ensure there is fairness at the hearing.
  5. Arrange for an aide to take notes.
Delaying the Hearing

In some cases, the employee is unable to attend the hearing (e.g. because they are ill). In this case you should schedule a reasonable alternative date and time.

Your employee can choose to delay the hearing if the person accompanying is unable to attend. They must inform you within 5 working days after you scheduled the original meeting time.

There are circumstances where you can make decisions without having a grievance hearing. Examples would be if your employee:

  • Fails to attend a rearranged meeting.
  • Is on long-term sick leave. As a result they are unable to attend meetings in the near future. In this case they can choose to supply written information instead, if they prefer.

Employer Decisions and Appeals

After the Hearing

Employers should supply a copy of the meeting records to their employee. In some cases, you may be able to leave out some information (e.g. to protect a witness).

Once you decide what action to take, you must write to all the parties involved. Your letter should set out:

  • The decision you made and the reasons behind it.
  • The grievance appeals process and its deadline.

Note: You must inform the employee as soon as possible if there are any delays during the appeal process.

Making Appeals

You need to take further steps if your employee appeals. You must set up another hearing to re-examine the original decision. The process functions the same as the first hearing but you should also investigate:

  • The reasoning behind your employee’s appeal.
  • Whether there is any new evidence added to the case.

Wherever possible, the second appeal should get heard by a different person than in the original hearing. What is your role after the appeal hearing? You should set out your decision once more in writing and then state that it is the final outcome.

Handling of Grievance Procedures with Employees in the United Kingdom