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Handling employee grievances

From time to time you will be confronted with issues and conflicts that may arise in the work place. To avoid any external conflict through the tribunals or courts it is always advisable to seek an early resolution of the matter before things deteriorate and cost you further time and expense. For advice and assistance speak to our employment law experts on 01616 966 229.

Stephensons’ employment solicitors will be at hand to assist you with any employee disputes that may arise in your work place. Our advice will be focused on achieving a resolution of the issues and minimise the risk of any tribunal claims and deal with all the formalities for you.

We recognise that depending on your circumstances, you may require different levels of assistance, so we aim to tailor our advice to suit your needs. From the outset we will give you a clear indication as to the level of costs you are likely to incur, whether you require full assistance during all stages of the process or you require a less hands on approach. We can also offer assistance in terms of alternative strategies such as dispute resolution and provide training to your workforce in how to deal with grievances and conduct any meetings.

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Employee grievance FAQs

What is a grievance and who can raise one?

A grievance is any concern, problem or complaint that an employee raises. It could deal with anything employment related, for instance relationships with colleagues, terms & conditions, issues relating to health & safety, or even their relationships with clients or customers.

Do you need a written grievance procedure?

All businesses, no matter how large or small, should make clear to an employee the details of the grievance procedure that apply. A written grievance procedure will therefore make it clear to employees how to raise one, and what will happen if they do.

All employers are required to at reasonably and fairly in dealing with a grievance. Acas has produced a Code of Practice that provides guidance and sets out the requirements that a company should consider when formulating and implementing its grievance procedure. If a company unreasonably fail to follow this code, if a claim is raised, an employment tribunal could increase any award of compensation made against you by 25%.

Even if you already have a written procedure, your procedures should be reviewed periodically, to ensure they remain up to date and fully compliant.

Any changes to the procedure should be notified to your employees.  

When is a complaint a grievance?

The Acas code suggests a grievance should be made in writing to someone with appropriate authority, i.e. a manager, without unreasonable delay. It should not be addressed or handled by the person who is the subject of the grievance.

The document does not however need to identify itself as a grievance and therefore care should be taken and consideration given to each complaint received. If in any doubt, it may be safer to assume it is a formal grievance and treat it as such.

Can an employee ignore a grievance procedure?

Yes, but an unreasonable failure by an employee to follow the grievance procedure can result in the employment tribunal reducing any award of compensation by 25%. Employees should be encouraged to raise their concerns, whether informally or on a more formal level, through your grievance procedure.

What should be included in a grievance procedure?

The procedure should set out how an employee can make a grievance and how you will deal with it. It should include the following:

  • Consideration of an informal/formal grievance approach;
  • Employees should notify the employer in writing of their concerns;
  • Employers will carry out any necessary investigation to establish facts;
  • Employers should hold a grievance meeting, providing the employee the opportunity to discuss the grievance and their desired solution;
  • The employee should be informed of their right to be accompanied at the meeting; and
  • The employee should be aware of their right to appeal if they are unsatisfied with the outcome.

How can we draw up the policy?

The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures sets out the basic requirements, but it is always advisable to get your policies drawn up by specialist employment law advisors.

Stephensons are happy to assist you in formulating and tailoring a grievance policy to suit you.

 Can you settle issues/grievances informally?

Yes; and the Acas code encourages settling grievances informally, to prevent them escalating. However, if an issue cannot be resolved informally, then is should be handled formally, in compliance with your grievance policy.

As an alternative to initiating the formal process, the parties could consider mediation. Please free to discuss this further with us.

Formal grievance procedural steps

Once you decide that you must follow your formal grievance procedure. This should include:

  • Carrying out any necessary investigation to establish facts.
  • Considering if the grievance has been raised previously and the outcome of that, to ensure consistency.
  • Inviting the employee to a grievance meeting, which should be held as soon as reasonably practicable after the grievance has been raised.
  • At the meeting, the employee should be provided the opportunity to explain their grievance and their desired solution. An unconnected colleague should attend to keep a clear record of what was discussed.
  • The aim of the meeting is to reach a solution; it is not a disciplinary meeting.
  • Provide the decision of the hearing as soon as possible, in writing. You must set out what, if any, action you propose taking, and the reasons for that decision. The employee should also be advised of their right to appeal the outcome.

Does an employee have the right to be accompanied?

An employee has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union representative.

The Acas code suggests that the companion should be afforded the opportunity to participate in the meeting fully, but is not permitted to answer questions on the employee’s behalf.

There may be exceptions to the rule. For instance, it might be worth considering special provisions relating to disabled workers, allowing them to bring a support worker with knowledge of their disability & its impact, so you are making all reasonable adjustments as required.

If another employee is to act as companion, you must permit reasonable time off to enable them to familiarise themselves with the case, attend the hearing and confer with the employee before and after the meeting.

Rights of appeal against the decision?

Yes. An employee wishing to appeal should do so, in writing, setting out their reasons, as soon as possible or within the (reasonable) time limits stipulated.

The appeal must be impartial and should be heard as soon as possible, advising the employee of when and where it will be heard. The appeal should be heard by a more senior manager (or a different manager if that is not possible).

As soon as possible, you must notify the employee of the decision in writing. If this is the end of the grievance procedure, you must say so in the letter. 

We pride ourselves on tailoring our service to the client’s individual needs and aim to make the process as painless as possible. Furthermore with a clear indication being provided as to the level of costs you will incur from the outset, you will have piece of mind in knowing exactly what you will receive for your money.

If you have any queries about any grievances or putting in place a grievance procedure contact us.

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