26 October 2020

As an employer, dealing with employee complaints is part of being a business owner. In your eyes, they may not seem a huge issue - but how you deal with a raised concern can go a long way.

Having a clear grievance procedure in place will make the process of dealing with grievances easier. Hopefully, avoiding the need for an employment tribunal and compensation to pay.

In this guide, we'll discuss what it means to raise a grievance, the formal procedure you must follow, and what you should include in your grievance policy.

What is a workplace grievance?

A workplace grievance is either a formal or informal complaint, concern, or issue raised about a company or people within it.

These can range from altering someone's job role from what their employment contract states, to raising a claim of sexual harassment.

As an employer, you have a duty to treat all employee complaints or concerns with the utmost respect. To do so, you must understand the details surrounding raising a formal grievance.

What does raising a grievance mean?

Many grievances at work can be resolved informally. But if this isn't possible, the employee may choose to raise a formal grievance.

Raising a grievance is the process in which an employee formally raises a complaint to their employer. You should refer to the ACAS Code of Practice when dealing with grievances.

Who can raise a formal grievance?

By law, every employee has the right to raise a grievance to their employer at any time of their employment. However, it will need to be in line with the employer's grievance procedure.

Although you have no legal requirement to investigate the dispute, it's advisable to investigate the complaint. This can save you time and money in the long run.

In some cases, an employee might raise a malicious grievance. This type of grievance is used by employees to stall any incoming disciplinary action coming their way.

Can you dismiss an employee for raising a grievance?

By law, you have no legal right to dismiss an employee for raising a grievance against you or the company.

If you choose to terminate an employee over a grievance. they could raise a claim of discrimination or unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal.

What is the formal grievance procedure?

You should have a formal procedure in place for when an employee raises a grievance. Making this clear to the employee when the initial concern is raised will increase their trust in you that you will treat the issue with respect.

The following is the step-by-step procedure you should follow as an employer.

Receiving a grievance letter

The first step of the grievance procedure is receiving the initial grievance letter from the employee in writing.

The letter should include the following:

  • The employee's details, such as name and contact details.
  • Clear facts surrounding the concern or complaint, such as any witnesses.
  • The nature of the grievance explained under the ACAS Code of Practice

After you've received the letter, you should hold a meeting without unreasonable delay.

Hold a grievance hearing with the employee

Once you receive a grievance letter from an employee, an initial meeting should be held if further investigation is required. This meeting should take place at a reasonable time after the initial grievance was raised - with a grievance chair being appointed prior to the meeting.

The meeting should go as follows:

  • The employee will explain their concerns or complaints in more detail, giving you a better idea of the situation.
  • An employee will read out any witness statements from other parties which may help their case.
  • The employer will ask the employee any questions relating to the complaint or concern.
  • The meeting will be closed, but only when the grievance chair is confident that all points have been raised fairly.

An employee is also allowed to be accompanied to the meeting, This can either be a colleague or a trade union representative.

Send the employee an outcome letter

Following the grievance meeting, you should send a letter in writing informing the employee about your decision. This needs to be done without unreasonable delay.

This part of the grievance procedure is crucial, as it could end the complaint there and then or it may be taken to the next level.

The outcome letter should include the following:

  • The final decision that's been made.
  • The reasons behind the decision.
  • All details surrounding the meeting (such as dates, attendees, and evidence).

It's advisable to try and resolve the issue as soon as possible. Delaying matters can cause strains on working relationships, as well as decreasing morale and productivity.

Some people having a meeting.

Can an employee appeal against a grievance outcome?

If the employee feels the wrong decision was made, they should be allowed to appeal the decision made under the ACAS Code of Practice. It's advisable that you set out a timeframe for when the employee should submit appeal requests.

The appeal can be made to their line manager, or another person in a management position who hasn’t been involved in the case.

Once the appeal letter has been submitted in writing, you should organise a further meeting and an appeal hearing. A senior manager should handle any appeal meeting and should be 100% impartial.

Is the decision made at the appeal final?

The outcome of the appeal meeting regarding the grievance raised is the final decision - with no further right of appeal. This should be made clear to the employee before the meeting takes place.

Can a workplace grievance lead to an employment tribunal claim?

If the employee still doesn't agree with the decision made following the appeal hearing, they're well within their legal rights to make a claim to an employment tribunal (depending on the context of the grievance).

In order to avoid an employment tribunal claim, it's vital you have a clear and concise workplace grievance procedure and policy in place.

What should you include in a grievance policy?

It’s advisable that all employers in the should set out a grievance process formal procedure. This should be shared with all employees. Grievance procedures should include things like:

  • Who an employee should contact if they wish to raise a grievance.
  • How to contact that person.
  • Time limits for each stage of the grievance procedure and following investigation.
  • Time limits for when the outcome letter following the grievance will be provided.
  • Explain how to appeal the employer's decision if required.
  • Time limits for when the appeal decision shall be given and provided to the employee.

What are the advantages to an employee raising a grievance?

As an employer, you should be aware that there are actually advantages to employees raising grievances against their employer. Such as:

  • A complaint between the employer and employee can be solved quickly and informally.
  • Honesty from the employee can lead to the working relationship being strengthened.
  • It can help the employer improve the workplace culture and make changes to how the company is run.

Get expert advice on grievances with Peninsula

As an employer, you will face complaints from unhappy employees from time to time. But how you deal with these complaints can go a long way.

You should have a clear and concise grievance procedure in place so that both you and your employees are aware should a concern be raised. Having a clear procedure in place can ensure the person who made the complaint feels respected, without the need for a tribunal.

Peninsula offers expert advice for employers on grievances should you require it. Our 24/7 HR advice is available 365 days a year.

Want to find out more? Book a free chat with one of our HR consultants. For further information, call 0800 028 2420.

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