Grievance procedures: Five-step guide for employers

Dealing with a grievance promptly and fairly is vital for employers aiming to reduce the risk of employment tribunal claims. Zeba Sayed sets out a five-step guide for HR on how to conduct a successful grievance procedure.

Liveflo: Deal with a formal grievance
This grievances workflow takes you step by step through dealing with a formal grievance in line with the “Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures”.

1. Informal action

If the grievance is relatively minor, the employer should have a discussion with the employee to see if it can be resolved informally.

In most cases, a quiet word is all that is needed to prevent an issue from escalating.

An employer should keep a paper trail of all stages of the grievance procedure, including any informal resolution that has been agreed.

If the grievance is serious, or the employee feels that it has not been satisfactorily resolved, the employer should deal with the complaint under its formal grievance procedure, and ask the employee to put his or her grievance in writing.

All employers should have a written grievance procedure in place and HR should ensure that line managers familiarise themselves with it.


2. Investigation

As soon as possible after receiving a grievance, the employer should carry out an investigation. In many cases, this will be a relatively straightforward fact-finding exercise.

If the grievance involves other members of staff, they should be informed and given an opportunity to provide their own evidence.

The investigation process will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.

Ultimately, the aim of the investigation is to establish the full facts of the grievance before any decision is taken.


3. Grievance meeting

After the investigation, the employer should hold a meeting with the employee so that he or she has an opportunity to explain the complaint.

The employee should be asked how he or she thinks the grievance should be resolved and what outcome he or she is seeking.

The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures states that an employee should be given a statutory right to be accompanied by a companion at a grievance meeting.

Tribunals take the code into account when considering relevant cases, and can increase awards of compensation by up to 25% for an unreasonable failure to comply with it.


4. Decision

Having considered the evidence, the employer will need to decide whether to uphold or reject the grievance.

The decision should be communicated to the employee, in writing, as soon as possible.

If the grievance is upheld or partially upheld, the employer should tell the employee what action it proposes to take and how this will be implemented.

The letter should also provide the employee with a right of appeal.


5. Appeal

If the grievance has been rejected or partially rejected, the employer should be prepared for an appeal.

This should be dealt with by an impartial manager and, where possible, a more senior manager than the person who dealt with the grievance.

Most appeal hearings will be in the form of a review but can take the form of a rehearing if the initial stage was procedurally flawed.

After the hearing, the employee should be informed in writing of the outcome of the appeal.

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