Check your Feelings
- Remember that with a grievance it is the employee who has a complaint against the employer. This means the balance of ownership of the meetings is reversed from that in a disciplinary hearing. Do not be affronted, it is how they feel and they are entitled to that.
- The investigator into a complaint needs to understand exactly what it is that the employee is complaining about. This may not be the reason stated or that may only be part of the reason so listening between the lines is essential.
Investigating the Grievance
- There is no defined order for a grievance investigation but employers must show that they have been fair and reasonable. Gathering the facts from the complainant first allows you to understand their problem without having your views influenced by others.
- Deal with the complaint as quickly as possible; do not let it keep slipping down the priority pile as the longer the employee is kept waiting the less likely an amicable solution.
- Check relevant documents and procedures and read the grievance letter and plan the room arrangements and note taker. (The HRadviser grievance guide provides detailed advice)
- Invite the employee making the complaint to a meeting to discuss their complaint. Offer them the right to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or union representative.
- Explore the issues complained of and obtain as much detail as possible. Ask the employee to give examples of any behaviour or actions complained of with, if possible:
- Time, date and location of the event
- Names of any witnesses present
- Be sure to ask the employee how they would like their grievance to be resolved if it is upheld. It may not be possible to give them the outcome they want eg the dismissal of another employee, but it is important to establish what they want.
- If the employee does ask for information regarding the action taken against the perpetrator explain that, if the grievance is upheld, any action taken by management will be confidential between the employer and that employee. The person raising the grievance has the right to have it rectified if upheld but no right to know how this is achieved.
- Interview any relevant witnesses. It may not be prudent to interview all witnesses if the complaint is sensitive but just the key ones.
- Stress to witnesses that the interview is confidential and that they should not discuss the matter with anyone.
- Advise the witness that their statement may need to be released to the person the complaint is about, but not necessarily to the person raising the grievance.
- Check any relevant documentation.
- Evaluate the facts, draw inferences on the balance of probabilities where there are no corroborated facts and consider your decision.
- Write the employee, and their representative if appropriate, with the decision and the reasons for it. Advise them of their right of appeal whether the grievance is upheld or not.
- If the grievance is upheld, put in place corrective action and monitor that it has been effective.
In monitoring, check with the employee that it has been resolved, do not assume that if you don’t hear from the employee everything is now resolved.