HR Blog: Employee grievances and how to manage them in your business

Although every employer hopes that their staff are all extremely contented and that no one will ever have a complaint, the reality is that all employers need a grievance procedure that meets the Acas code of practice.

Once it is written, the first step is to ensure all staff know there is a grievance policy. It’s best to give them a copy of the disciplinary and grievance procedures at the same time as their employment contract.

Some complaints may in your eyes be trivial, but it is important the process is followed nevertheless.

Too often trivial matters left to smoulder turn into major issues further down the line, causing significant disruption.

Try to solve grievances informally first

Training managers on how to handle grievances is essential. If the employee brings a verbal complaint to them, they can assess and ask if the person wants it dealt with informally.

For example, if an employee is struggling with their workload or clashing with a co-worker, which can both be common complaints, this might be resolved through a private chat.

Even with an informal grievance, it is important for managers to investigate and keep written records of meetings and the outcome.

Dealing with a formal grievance from an employee

There may be times when an employee feels the need to raise a formal grievance, which will be in writing.

Formal complaints from employees need to be well-documented, particularly where complaints of bullying, harassment or discrimination are concerned.

Begin by inviting the employee to a meeting so you can fully understand their complaint, as details in their written submission are unlikely to give the full story. Note that employees have a statutory right to be accompanied at disciplinary or grievance meetings.

Explain what the process will be and that after an investigation you will notify them of the outcome in writing.

Alternatively, you may choose to meet them face-to-face. If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome, they can appeal the decision.

Notes of the investigation must be taken, and any meetings should be fully recorded. Failure to do so could be a problem if the grievance escalates into a tribunal.

Reducing grievances in your SME business

100% employee satisfaction would be a hard target to achieve, but there are ways in which you can reduce grievances and prevent people problems from arising.

Preparing your managers to deal with conflict and handle difficult conversations is a good place to start. This can help them to manage employee issues and find solutions early on.

Open lines of communication are also important. Through checking in with employees you’ll get a better picture of all areas of the business and if employees are working well together.

Lastly, remember that support is available if you need it. If you would like to sense check your grievance process, contact your local HR Dept today.