If an employee comes to you and wants to raise a formal grievance, the first step you should take is to familiarise yourself with your practice's grievance procedure. Get to know the time limits for addressing grievances, and the protocol for responding to particular issues, such as bullying.
Beginning the process
- Deal with the matter seriously and promptly.
- Establish the type of procedure the complainant would like to take. An informal method of dealing with grievances can often bring about a resolution. If they request a formal grievance procedure, you shouldn't delay in starting the process.
- Consider whether to transfer the complainant to another part of the practice while the grievance procedure is underway. This action should only be taken if the complainant asks for it – otherwise, it may be seen as a punishment.
You should get as much detail as possible about the incidents that the complainant has mentioned, including:
- when the incident(s) happened
- where the incident(s) took place
- who was present
- what was said.
This will help you to carry out a full investigation. You may ask the complainant to set out their grievance fully in writing.
Formal grievance hearing
A formal grievance hearing should be held to clarify the allegations. It's the employer's responsibility to arrange this meeting, in line with the practice's grievance procedure.
The meeting should be held at a time and place notified to the complainant in advance.
The complainant has a statutory right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative at the meeting. It's best to make this clear by setting out the invite, and the right to be accompanied, in writing – as with all workplace procedures of this sort, a paper trail is important in case any questions are raised in the future.
The hearing will clarify the issues that need to be addressed, and the employee's desired outcomes. This could include:
- relocating staff
- reorganising the team
- disciplinary action against those who are alleged to be behaving inappropriately towards the complainant.
The investigation is a significant part of a grievance procedure. This could involve speaking to those against whom any allegations were made, or anyone who witnessed the alleged events, and taking statements.
It's crucial that the investigator remains impartial and maintains confidentiality, to protect the rights of everyone involved.
The investigation conversations should not be treated as a disciplinary hearing.
Reaching a conclusion
After the investigation stage, you may uphold the grievance and agree to take action. If there are multiple parts to the grievance, you may uphold some but not others, or decide that all of the complaints are unfounded.
Write to the complainant and inform them of your decision, allowing the right of appeal if the grievance is partly or wholly unsubstantiated.
If the grievance involves several individuals, mediation may help them rebuild their working relationships. This can be offered whether the grievance has been upheld or not. Mediation looks to achieve a resolution through open and honest conversation, where employees can explain how they are impacted by each other's behaviour.
GROUPCARE members receive access to a free 24-hour employment law advice line. For more information on how to set up a GROUPCARE scheme, visit themdu.com/groupcare
This page was correct at publication on 22/06/2018. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.