An employee has appealed against the outcome of a grievance they have raised, and one of your managers is in the frame to chair the appeal hearing. We’ve put together a quick guide covering how to manage the grievance appeal process and be confident that the decision they reach has taken all the right things into account.
Think about the Logistics
All well-run grievance appeal hearings start with some good quality thinking about ‘the logistics’. Organise a meeting room and assemble your team. Alongside your good self and the employee in question you’ll need a note taker. The employee is also entitled to a companion. This can be a trade union representative or a colleague. Here’s some more information on the role of the companion in a formal meeting.
Once you have your team together, make sure you have the right documents. You’ll need; the employee’s appeal letter, their original grievance letter, any investigation documents, the notes from the previous hearing and the letter which confirmed the outcome.
Within the grievance appeal hearing you will be doing one of two things; reviewing the decision previously made or re-hearing the employee’s complaint. More on these later, but for now make sure there’s sufficient time in your diary to do either.
Plan the Structure of the Grievance Appeal Hearing
Start with introductions and explain the role of the companion and the role of the note taker. This isn’t just an exercise in stating the obvious, it makes sure the companion knows what their role is; and makes it clear that the notes are for everyone. We regularly get asked whether it’s better to use technology for this job. We say no. The length of the recording – and any transcription that’s needed; plus, the risk of technological breakdown are both good reasons to say no to the technological solution. Your note taker’s best efforts are what’s needed here instead.
Then, introductions over, use the employee’s letter of appeal to structure the meeting. Go into ‘receive mode’ and listen to the points they want to raise. Try some great ‘open’ questions – like ‘help me understand’ and ‘tell me more about’ to really get to the detail.
Once you have the full picture, it’s time to decide whether you will be reviewing the grievance chairperson’s decision or going back to square one and re-hearing the case.
Re-hearing the Case Vs Reviewing the Decision
This is an important decision to get right, and there are some simple ways you can reach that decision.
If the employee is claiming that the grievance chairperson was biased or prejudiced against them, that the hearing was pointless or a foregone conclusion before they entered the room – a rehearing is likely to be the way to go.
If the employee is claiming that the decision was unreasonable based on the facts in front of them, didn’t consider a piece of evidence or didn’t apply a rule or policy in the right way, reviewing the manager’s decision may well be the right route to take. We take an in-depth look at what to consider when you are reviewing the case and what to do if you are rehearing the case in our digital learning course, planning your grievance appeal.
Remember that before you make this decision, there is nothing wrong with a short adjournment to gather your thoughts. Don’t feel duty bound to make your decision there and then.
Making Your Decision and Communicating the Outcome
So, it’s time to decide to ‘uphold’ or to ‘overturn’ the previous decision.
If you have managed the appeal as a re-hearing, assemble all the evidence you have gathered and use it to draw your conclusions. This way you’ll be confident you have been logical, taken everything relevant into account and looked at the case from all angles.
If you have heard the appeal as a review you need to focus on the crux of the employee’s appeal and frame your decision around whether it appears to have been a ‘reasonable’ one.
A great tip for doing this is to put the decision and the evidence side by side. Ask yourself; was it a logical decision? Was everything relevant factored into making it? Did they (that is the grievance chairperson) look at the point from all angles? If you think that it is reasonable – uphold the decision. If you think there is room for improvement – overturn the decision, give your new outcome and provide recommendations. There may be some elements of it that you are comfortable with, and others that you are not so. Think about those ‘uncomfortable bits’. Are they serious enough to make the whole decision unsound? If yes, overturn the decision.
Once you have made your decision, communicating the outcome might feel like the easy bit. Don’t forget these essential components; explain your decision clearly, outline any next steps that might need to be taken, check your policy to see if there is room for another appeal and finally, give your decision to HR to be included in the outcome letter.
Encourage your managers to follow these key steps and they can’t go far wrong in doing a great job on their appeal hearing. Vista provides advice and support on a wide range of people management topics and we’ve produced a series of short, snappy micro learning videos which cover people management tasks just like this one, broken down into a series of logical next steps. They are in time, on point pieces of guidance that help managers to tackle each part of the job with confidence.