Often, by the time people require our HR advice in Oxfordshire to handle employee complaints, the situation is long standing and has become a major problem. It is always best to deal with issues as they arise but often busy managers don’t see the signs of trouble brewing, or find it easier to turn a blind eye and hope things will blow over.
What is a grievance, anyway?
One definition of a grievance is “A concern, problem or complaint raised by an employee that relates to some aspect of his or her work, such as the terms and conditions, working environment, duties or work relations.” Employers are required to set out in the employment terms and conditions, how an employee should raise a grievance. If the company has a written grievance procedure, this should be easily accessible to all staff.
As a part of our HR advice in Oxfordshire, we recommend having a written procedure on grievances as this informs both staff and managers about how the company will handle these issues fairly and legally.
One of the biggest challenges for employers is often spotting a grievance. A grievance does not need to be in a letter with the heading “Grievance”. Employees might have made a serious complaint within an email about other matters; they might have waited until they’ve resigned to tell you about their manager’s bullying behaviour or simply added negative comments on their latest appraisal form. All of these should be picked up and dealt with at the time to prevent employment claims later. Failure to deal with a grievance can amount to a breach of contract, which would allow the employee to resign and make a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.
So how can our HR advice in Oxfordshire help you deal with grievances effectively and legally?
- Consider if the matter can be resolved informally but if not read your formal procedure and ensure that you follow your own rules and timescales for handling complaints. If we have written this for you it will be compliant with the ACAS Code of Practice.
- You may need to investigate the employee’s concerns by getting statements from witnesses or gathering evidence.
- Invite the employee to a meeting to discuss their complaint and give them the evidence you’ve gathered before the meeting. Remember that they can be accompanied by a colleague or Trade Union Representative (and no, you do not need to recognise unions in your workplace for this to apply!)
- Ask the employee how they would like the grievance to be resolved. Their request may not be feasible, but our HR advice would be to fully consider all of the evidence after the meeting before giving a decision.
- Put everything in writing. It is best to have someone with you at the meeting to make notes. Write to the employee explaining your decision and reasoning. Set out what will happen to resolve the issue, or alternatively, why there will be no action taken.
- Give the employee the right to appeal if they are not satisfied with your decision. Where possible, they should appeal to a different manager who has not been involved to ensure fairness. In small companies, this may need to be the same manager who dealt with the complaint, or you could ask an independent advisor to hear the appeal on your behalf.
Our HR advice in Oxfordshire on using mediation
ACAS recognises mediation as a useful tool for settling disputes and it can be particularly powerful where two colleagues have taken opposing stances on an issue. An expert mediator would focus on the interests of all parties and help to bring their positions closer together. Both parties need to agree to get involved in the mediation process as they take responsibility for finding a mutually agreeable solution. Often mediation at an early stage can prevent relationships from breaking down.
How can you deal with malicious or trivial complaints?
It is useful to state in your grievance procedure that malicious grievances may be dealt with as a disciplinary matter.
If the issue raised is obviously trivial and would waste management time, you can write to the employee explaining this and asking them to provide evidence which shows that their complaint requires a meeting.
However, in both of these instances we would advise that you employ our HR advice in Oxfordshire, as a mishandled grievance can be dangerous and expensive.
Our Oxfordshire HR advice line offers clients unlimited HR support on all of the situations above. As your HR advisor we can write appropriate policies, provide letters to meet the situation and attend difficult meetings with you and your staff.
At Critchleys HR & Payroll, all of our retained clients have extra peace of mind as they benefit from legal costs insurance of £500,000 per annum. If an employee feels that they have been treated unfairly, our insurers’ solicitors will provide additional advice and deal with employment claims and tribunals.
Information about our HR Advice in Oxfordshire service is provided here, if you’d rather speak to another human being to see if we can help, please contact us today.
Find out more about Fiona Armitage