Grievance procedures: The 4 mistakes most commonly made by employers

No employer enjoys hearing the news that an employee has raised a formal grievance procedure with you, regardless of what it may be about.

Grievances can take form in a variety of ways and the way they are handled is crucial.

Deal with it efficiently and see the attitudes of your employees improve – or deal with it poorly and risk facing serious legal complications.


Grievance procedure

Which issues could lead to a grievance procedure?

Grievances are usually raised as a result of the following problems:

  • Terms of employment. For example, an employee is being asked to carry out work that was not originally stated in their employment contract
  • Workplace rules and conditions
  • Bullying
  • Harassment/ discrimination of any kind
  • Health and safety concerns
  • New working practices

Perfecting your grievance procedure

Below we have highlighted the 4 most commonly-made mistakes by employers in regards to their grievance procedures.

  1. Making the process more formal than it needs to be

    How you respond, and the time you take to do so, immediately after receiving a grievance will say a lot about you as an employer.
    The formal procedure for handling grievances should be viewed as a last resort, unless the issue involved discrimination, harassment or bullying.
    Managers often undermine how useful it can be to simply have a quiet word with the disgruntled employee, and as a result tend to evade this step. Consequently, this can cause the situation to escalate and become unnecessarily heated and complex in a very short time.
    Your grievance procedure should be made abundantly clear across your entire company, and employees should be aware of who they can raise a grievance with. In the event that they wish to raise a grievance concerning their line manager, you must ensure that they have a dedicated HR professional to turn to.
    We strongly advise that you shorten the number of steps in your grievance procedure where possible and always attempt to resolve issues in a personal and caring manner. Your employee should know that their happiness and satisfaction at work is more important than workplace procedures.

    Disciplinary and grievance procedures

  2. Asking the wrong people to assist with the procedure

    The typical grievance procedure will involve:
    • An investigator who will look at the facts of the case in-depth
    • A decision-maker who is typically the employer or line manager
    • An appeal manager if the employee wishes to appeal the decision made in the outcome
    It is absolutely pivotal that none of these individuals are personally involved in the case. They must remain objective and fair throughout the process.
    It can be significantly more complex if you run a small close-knit business, with only a handful of staff members. For this reason, you may want to hire external consultants to assist you. Our esteemed team of consultants can assist you with the investigation, hearing and appeal process on-site.
    It is crucial that you remain objective when you first listen to the employee’s grievance.
  3. Taking too long

    Whilst handling a grievance properly can sometimes be time-consuming. It would be useful to set a reasonable time frame. The time frame sets out when you will reach an outcome on the matter.
    You should do everything you can to keep the employee in the loop. You need to inform them of what further action is yet to be taken and when they can expect to see a resolution. Keeping an employee waiting for weeks, or even months on end without updating them on the progress of their grievance would only add to their frustration. This could even lead to the employee taking legal action against you.
  4. Not following your own grievance procedure

    The 2013 landmark case of Blackburn v Aldi Stores Ltd proves exactly how vital it is that employers follow their own policies and procedures.
    By law, you must have a written grievance procedure.
    Failure to adhere to your own grievance procedure could cause the employee to submit a breach of conduct claim against you, which they would likely win.
    The Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is another document which you should duly take note of. This in itself is not a piece of binding legislation. However, if you breach the Code, you could have to pay the complainant 25% more compensation.

    Handling a grievance procedure

How can PeoplepointHR help improve your grievance procedure?

Our consultants and employment law specialists currently offer many services relating to disciplinary and grievance procedures. They are able to draft new procedures which specifically meet your business needs. In addition, they also provide training on grievance management to all relevant managers.

If you are facing a grievance and are unsure on what steps to take contact PeoplepointHR. We will be happy to offer impartial advice tailored to you.