As employment law advisers, we are frequently asked about grievances and issues surrounding the grievance process, which put us to thinking: what is it about a grievance that fills us with dread, and why?
We all know what we should do in an ideal world…
- Establish the nature of the grievance and the issues promptly
- Arrange a formal meeting as quickly as possible and carry out any necessary investigations to establish the facts of the case
- Deliver the outcome by way of a detailed outcome letter which documents evidence and justifying findings
Let’s take the first point; establishing the nature of the grievance and the issues promptly.
Often our clients tell us that there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend dealing with a lengthy grievance. It’s important to remember that looking at the grievance carefully and establishing ALL the issues is a crucial stage in responding to a grievance thoroughly – don’t skip this step. That’s our first ‘don’t’ when dealing with a grievance.
Some grievances are lengthy, and the temptation may be to address the matter as quickly as possible to at least get it off your desk in the short term. In reality, this approach could turn out to be more time consuming and cause more issues in the future, not only by way of disgruntled employees but the risk of legal action.
Don’t ‘Cherry Pick’ the Less Difficult Points
A problem we often encounter to save time is ‘cherry picking’ whereby a small number of the issues, perhaps the less difficult points are investigated and addressed but several thornier or uncomfortable issues within the body of the grievance are left and are not investigated. This can not only give the employee grounds to appeal and to argue the matter has not been dealt with correctly but could also cause the matter to take more time than it would if we had just sat down and done it properly in the first place.
Remember that they key components of a good grievance process are; responsiveness, transparency, impartiality and above all a commitment to uncovering difficult truths.
The Do’s of The Grievance Process
Deal with difficult conversations
It is without doubt difficult to address issues raised against a senior figure within the business and it could leave us feeling intimidated and uncomfortable. Remember, an employee has the right to raise a complaint against anyone and it is our duty to ensure that is done. Training to deal with difficult conversations can really assist managers, giving them the tools and the confidence to manage these issues well.
Set some time aside to read the grievance in full
Within this time, highlight all the issues that have been raised in the grievance, and highlight against each issue who the complaint is being made about.
Make a list of any witnesses to the issues that have been raised
Think about who is involved, who is subject to allegations and who works closely with the individual.
Compile a ‘terms of reference’
This will be the key issues from the grievance that you will discuss with the complainant at the next stage – it will be the structure for the investigation to follow.
Contact those who will need to be spoken to as part of the investigation process
Explain as far as possible why and the importance of this process.
Remember, don’t miss out any issues raised. It’s our responsibility regardless of time and regardless of who the complaint is against or how uncomfortable or difficult the conversation may be to do this properly – it will pay off in the long run. Time constraints would not be a valid excuse in the Tribunal.
In our next blog, we will look at how best to go about conducting that grievance investigation.