Grievance Policy

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Health Assured team

04 November 2022

Every manager will have to deal with issues raised by their employees at some point. From small concerns to serious breaches - whatever the problem, you need to deal with them fairly and lawfully.

A great way to demonstrate how to manage them is through a grievance policy. These guidelines allow employees to understand how to file grievances; as well as what steps are needed to reach resolution.

If you neglect the proper procedure, you could end up facing hefty pay outs, increased staff turnover, and reputational damages.

In this guide, we'll look at what a grievance policy is, employee rights on raising issues, and how to create a policy that deals with any workplace complaint.

What is a grievance policy?

A grievance policy is a statement which outlines how your company intends to deal with work-related issues.

The policy is part of your grievance procedure, which every employer should have in place. Information on how a complaint is dealt with - from start to end - should be accessible for all employees.

What is an example of a work-related grievance?

There are so many different grievances an employee could raise. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Payment: Like wages, bonuses, and benefits.
  • Workplace conditions: Like health and safety or welfare facilities
  • Employee conduct: Like discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.
  • Custom and practices: Like workloads, deadlines, and production.

It's more practical to have separate grievance policies in place for serious complaints, like sexual harassment.

employees using ropes and safety systemsworkers using ropes and safety equipment

What is the UK law on grievance policies?

In the UK, there is no specific law on having grievance policies in place. However, every employer should present a grievance procedure to their employees.

Employers must also refer to the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. These rules outline a resolution procedure used for work-related complaints.

Following the Code of Practice isn't a legal requirement. But it's well advised, especially if a company doesn't have a grievance procedure or policy in place.

Compliance is also beneficial when a complaint is raised to tribunals. This is often seen when you raise a grievance relating to serious misconduct, like sexual harassment or racial discrimination. If you show compliance with ACAS Code of Practice, tribunals may take this with your favour.

Employee rights during grievance procedures

Whatever the complaint may be, every employee is automatically protected against discrimination related to the complaint. You can't enforce disciplinary action simply because they raised a grievance (This applies for both informal and formal complaints).

Neglecting your employees' legal rights means you could face detrimental concerns for your organisation. Employment tribunals can force you to pay compensation and collective legal fees. The winning party may also be awarded 25% of overall damages.

Your company may also suffer reputational damages - which aren't easy to recover from. That's why it's crucial that you manage every complaint in an appropriate manner.

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How to create a grievance procedure policy

It's common for work-related complaints to be raised every once in a while. That's why you must be committed to having a fair grievance procedure policy.

They help employees understand how complaints will be dealt with - while maintaining confidentiality throughout. You also need to minimise any fears of victimisation or harassment relating to raising concerns.

When creating a grievance procedure policy, you should explain the following:

  • Contact details of the person (or team) who deals with grievances. (For example, a HR department or senior management).
  • Procedure for grievances that can be resolved informally.
  • Procedure for grievances that must be resolved formally.
  • Procedure of a grievance hearing (only for a formal grievance).
  • Information on an employees' legal right for representation during meetings. (For example, a direct supervisor or trade union representative).
  • Methods on reaching a resolution and how to request an appeal.

Once you've written your policy, add the terms to employee contracts and handbooks. And ensure it's in line with the grievance procedure you have in place.

Sometimes, a resolution cannot be reached by either side and the case may be escalated to an employment tribunal. At this stage, you should comply with the court in order to seek the best outcome for your organisation.

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Can you resolve grievances informally?

You can try to resolve work-related grievances informally. But only if it isn't categorised as a serious or formal grievance.

When an employee raises a complaint, discuss the matter in a comfortable setting. Allow them to demonstrate their concerns, whether it's with their job or the company itself.

Before involving your HR department, you can resolve the subject through mediation. At this stage, an impartial person, or 'mediator' listens to each party and helps them reach a mutual decision.

However, you can only use mediation if it appeals to both sides. Employers may also need to pay for these formal meetings, like hiring an external third-party for mediation.

Do grievance policies need to be in writing?

Having a written grievance policy isn't a legal obligation, however it's actually very beneficial. Employees can directly refer to these guidelines at any time. Your policy also stands as documented evidence, in cases like tribunals or hearings.

As soon as an employee raises a grievance, you should document details like:

  • What is the complaint about and which employee is involved?
  • Have there been initial attempts to resolve the complaint? (Like mediation or informal resolution).
  • What are the details of the grievance hearing? (Like evidentiary findings, final verdicts, and the appeal process).

Of course, you might have implied rules or traditions which are commonly acknowledged by your employees. However, it's good business practice to have your formal grievance procedure in writing.

Get expert guidance on grievance policies with Health Assured

A manager can't enforce disciplinary action simply because an employee raised an issue. However they should inform their HR department every time employees file grievances.

Neglect this and you could end up facing monetary penalties, lost production, and reputational damages.

At Health Assured, our workplace wellbeing team offers expert guidance on managing grievance policy and procedure. Our Employment Assistance Programme (EAP) is run by clinical experts . They can help you create a plan and support employees in the process with access to 24-7 counselling support.

Get in touch with one of our wellbeing experts to find out more today. Call 0844 891 0352.

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