May 02

Policy Spotlight: Grievance Policies

We get it, HR policies are quite dry subject matter. We don’t often hear our clients excited to add another policy to their collection or telling us how a policy has helped them reach their profit target this year. But boring things are still important!

Our Policy Spotlight series will take you through some of the key HR policies, shining a light on what they’re for, and why you might need them. Having the right policies in place can:

  1. Make sure you’re complying with employment law.
  2. Provide you with some protection from employee claims.
  3. Help your employees understand what is and isn’t accepted in your business in terms of conduct (their own or others), performance and the company’s stance in key areas.
  4. Enable your employees to find information themselves, saving their managers time.

Here at HR Overload, we help our clients understand what policies they do and don’t need in their business, write bespoke policies or amend what’s in place and give you the tools to implement these with your teams. If you think yours need some attention get in touch, 020 8588 9494 or send us a note via our website.

What is a grievance policy?

A grievance policy, also sometimes called a complaints policy, is put in place to inform employees what to do if they have a grievance at work. Grievances may be raised about many different things effecting an individual, but typically they involve interpersonal issues such as an employee believing they are being treated unfairly, bullied or discriminated against. It is also possible to have a collective grievance raised where multiple employees make a complaint about the same thing.

Under UK legislation, employers must set out their grievance procedure and have this easily accessible to all employees. It must include who an employee should contact if they have a grievance to raise, and how to contact this person.

The aim should be to resolve grievances informally, without the need for a formal process to reduce time spent and enable employees to move on. However, in some instances grievances can be too serious to be dealt with informally (for instance sexual harassment), or an informal approach is unsuccessful and the employee is not satisfied with this.

Therefore, a grievance policy should also set out the procedure if a grievance cannot be resolved informally and should ensure all employees are treated equally and issues are dealt with fairly and reasonably. The procedure should follow the ACAS Code of Practice: Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. This procedure should include:

  • A Grievance Hearing – a meeting with the employee for them to give further details of their grievance. This meeting should be held by an impartial, senior employee and the employee is entitled to be accompanied at meetings by a colleague or trade union representative. It is advisable to make a record of this meeting.
  • Arrangements for any investigations needed.
  • Time scales for each stage of the process – these should be as short as possible.
  • The appeal process – for if the employee is dissatisfied with the outcome.
  • The procedure if a grievance is raised during a disciplinary process.

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, contracts must mention grievance procedures therefore, some employers choose to include their grievance procedure in their employment contracts rather than in a separate policy or handbook. Be aware that this means that the procedure is contractual and must be followed precisely and cannot be varied without consultation.

Why do I need a Grievance Policy?

Aside from the legal requirements mentioned previously, having a clear procedure for dealing with employee grievances can protect your business from both legal claims and inappropriate behaviour or practices in the workplace.

It’s been proved many times that a happy workforce is a productive workforce, so dealing with issues quickly, fairly and effectively enables your employees to get back to work and contribute to the success of your business. Leaving issues to fester can damage motivation and performance and  lead to higher staff turnover.

In more serious cases, failure to deal with employee grievances, or not dealing with them fairly could result in an employee making a claim to an employment tribunal of unlawful treatment such as discrimination or breach of contract. Dealing with tribunals is a long and costly process and if the employee wins they will likely be awarded compensation. Furthermore, if an organisation hasn’t followed the ACAS code of practice in their internal dealings with the grievance, the tribunal can increase any money awarded by up to 25%.

Having a policy in place (and following it) doesn’t guarantee that you won’t find yourself dealing with a tribunal, but it does put a business in a much better place to defend their process, findings and subsequent actions as a reasonable response to any grievance raised.

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