When an employee raises a grievance, it is often about another employee. It could be an allegation of bullying by a line manager, about their behaviour as an individual rather than their actions on behalf of the employer, or it may be a complaint that a colleague is not pulling their weight.
We set out five steps to help employers dealing with a grievance, as identified in the recent XpertHR podcast on grievances and disciplinary proceedings.
Dealing with a grievance
1. The grievance should be dealt with first
When one employee raises a complaint about another, the employer should follow its grievance procedure and it should investigate the complaint to try to establish the facts.
This is likely to involve interviewing the employee who has raised the grievance, the employee against whom the grievance is made and any other witnesses.
The employer should not jump to the conclusion that disciplinary action will be necessary before investigating the grievance.
2. Consider extending the right to be accompanied
Employees who are interviewed as witnesses during a grievance procedure do not have the right to be accompanied at the interview, even where the grievance revolves around allegations against them.
However, the employer might consider allowing an employee to be accompanied in these circumstances as a matter of good practice.
3. Anonymise witness statements
While employees have the right to see information that their employer holds on them, such as a witness statement, the employer can refuse to disclose the information if another person can be identified from it and does not consent to it being released.
However, it should release the statement if it is reasonable to do so in the circumstances. The employer could consider if there are ways of anonymising the statement before releasing it.
4. Disciplinary proceedings are not the only potential outcome
It may be that the issue can be resolved without the need for disciplinary proceedings, for example by talking to the employees involved informally and monitoring the situation to ensure that the relationship between them improves. In some circumstances, mediation might be appropriate to help them to reach a solution with which they are both satisfied.
If the employer decides to take no further action as a result of the grievance, it is important that it explains to the person who raised the grievance that it has reached this decision after a full investigation and explains the reasons behind the decision.
5. Any subsequent disciplinary must be full and fair
If, as a result of the grievance proceedings, the employer decides to instigate the disciplinary procedure against the employee complained about, it should ensure that it carries out a sufficient investigation. Some of the information gathered during the grievance procedure will be relevant, but the employer must ensure that it has all the relevant information before holding a disciplinary hearing.