Grievance Procedure Guide

26 March 2021

For both legal reasons and the good of a workforce, strong policies for grievances procedures are essential. Under Irish employment law, grievance procedures in Ireland help to address workplace matters before they become a matter for the courts to decide.

Employment law states that employers must set out a grievance procedure. They must share it in writing with all employees and it helps to have them comply with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.

Although the Code of Practice isn’t legally binding, if a grievance procedure does not comply with the WRC Code of Practice, this can be used in evidence against the employer in WRC adjudications, Labour Court hearings or other court proceedings.

Employers should strive for a harmonious workplace. However, in the event of disputes with employees or issues with management, grievances may arise.

The importance of grievance procedures is that they show how a company should legally and fairly handle disputes. 

Failure to do so can lose a company talent and ruin employee morale. It also invites claims to the WRC. Employers can suffer expensive orders to financially or otherwise compensate aggrieved employees by these WRC employment tribunals.

To avoid any of these negative, lasting consequences, Peninsula provides expert advice and explanations about grievances.

Types of grievances

There are many ways grievances at work can arise. Examples of such include:

Understanding how to handle grievances is vital. Each type of grievance deserves a fair procedure, as failing to do so can result in WRC claims.

Regardless of the type of grievance, employers should work to resolve any as quickly as possible. In the workplace, it’s important to try to resolve a grievance before it causes wider employee relations issues.

Employers must ensure that there is no undue delay during the process. This includes the opening stages and after any initial grievance meetings.

Grievance procedure steps

An effective grievance process helps to handle employee grievances. 

Understanding how to handle procedures consistently prevents any mistake that could negatively impact both employees and employers.

It is in an employer’s best interests to resolve grievances quickly and informally if possible. Handling a grievance informally removes the need for a more protracted formal procedure that demands a lot of management time.

However, not all complaints are easily solved by informal means. Failure to resolve a grievance informally requires the initiation of formal grievance procedures.

Formal grievances require an investigation. An impartial third party must carry this out to ensure there can be no allegations of bias.

Both the employee raising a grievance and any other involved employees have certain rights/entitlements during the grievance process.

A fair grievance procedure should include:

  • Fair examinations and fair processing of employee grievances.
  • Gathering and examining details of any allegations or complaints.
  • Opportunities for the employee or employer concerned to respond fully to any such allegations or complaints.
  • Opportunities for the employee or employer concerned to avail of the right to representation during the procedure.
  • Explaining and establishing the right to a fair and impartial determination of the issues concerned.

The employees involved should be notified that they are entitled to have a colleague or union official represent them during the grievance procedure.

What should a grievance procedure include?

A grievance procedure should incorporate the principles contained in the WRC Code of Practice. These are:

  • That employee grievances are fairly examined and processed
  • That details of any allegations or complaints are put to the employee concerned
  • That the employee concerned is given the opportunity to respond fully to any such allegations or complaints
  • That the employee concerned is given the opportunity to avail of the right to be represented during the procedure
  • That the employee concerned has the right to a fair and impartial determination of the issues concerned, taking into account any representations made by, or on behalf of, the employee and any other relevant or appropriate evidence, factors, circumstances.

Those working through atypical types of employment, such as agency workers, can also raise grievances.

Agency workers’ grievance procedure requires that they raise any grievances according to their employer’s policy.

Agency workers are protected under certain employment laws and employers must in particular be mindful of the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012 which states that temporary agency workers must receive equal treatment.

The importance of grievance procedures

The Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (SI No. 146 of 2000) explains the steps an employer should take in the workplace.

This includes details of the critical features of a grievance policy. By using it, an employer can ensure that their policy complies with fair procedures.

The code of practice on grievance and disciplinary procedures should:

  • Establish staff grievance procedures in writing: ensure the language within the procedure is clear and is easily understood.
  • Easily available to employees: clearly communicate your policy and procedure to employees. Make it easily available for employees.
  • Often reviewed: properly examine and process grievances. Handle them and the review process fairly. 

The cost of not following grievance procedures is potentially very high. If an employer does not follow grievance procedures, the WRC may order the business to compensate the aggrieved employee.

Without following fair and reasonable grievance handling procedures, employers also risk damaging employee morale and potentially losing talent.

Expert support on grievance procedures with Peninsula

An employer’s grievance procedure should reflect a healthy working environment, one that encourages and supports fair treatment. However, handling any procedure might create issues, if mishandled.

Whether it’s informal or formal grievance processes, there are ways they can backfire for both employers or employees. 

A procedure that’s too informal may not resolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction. The employee who made the allegation may not feel that the process amounted to appropriate disciplinary action.  

Formal procedures can also be mismanaged. For example, if taken to an employment tribunal, an employee’s dismissal might be considered unfair if the process did not adhere to the principles outlined above.

Peninsula offers specialised services If you need on-site assistance when handling a grievance. Or, if you require assistance in creating your procedure, you can reach out to our 24-hour HR advice line.

For anything else HR-related, you can call at any time, day or night. Call us on 1800 719 216.

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