Grievance procedures exist in order to try and promote satisfactory resolution of disputes in the workplace. They are also set up to ensure that employees are treated fairly and consistently.
As the employer, you have a duty to give serious consideration to any grievances raised by your employees and to deal with them speedily and effectively. Grievance procedures generally are not contractually binding upon either you or your employees. However, it is highly advisable for you to have a company grievance policy that is readily accessible to your employees.
There are guidelines on grievance procedures set down by ACAS as follows:
- Employees should raise their grievance in writing. Although failure to do so does not prevent them from bringing a claim in the employment tribunal about the matter, the employment tribunal may reduce their compensation by up to 25% if they did not first raise the grievance in writing.
- You should carry out a proper investigation by collecting documents and interviewing relevant people.. Also the person chairing and investigating the grievance should be independent (ie: not the subject of the employee's grievance).
- An initial grievance hearing should be held without unreasonable delay, and the employee should be informed of their right to be accompanied to the meeting by a colleague or trade union representative. The purpose of the meeting is for you to establish the facts and decide whether to uphold the grievance or not. The employee should be sent copies of all relevant documents and statements before the hearing and they should be allowed to call their own relevant witnesses. You may also choose to call witnesses if this is necessary.
- A full written record of the meeting should be taken and although the decision can be given at the end of the hearing, it should always be confirmed in writing. The decision should include details of intended actions as well as notifying the employee of their right to appeal.
- When the matter is concluded, you need to decide on appropriate action. For example, mediation, training, or disciplinary sanctions.
If the employee appeals, it should be in writing and specify the grounds of appeal. If the employee brings a tribunal claim against you without appealing, their award may be reduced. An appeal meeting should be conducted by at least one senior person who has not been involved in the previous grievance, and any new evidence should be carefully considered. You should communicate your final decision and the reasons for that decision in writing without unreasonable delay.
Whilst the ACAS Code for grievances is not legally binding, employment tribunals can increase compensation by up to 25 per cent if you have ‘unreasonably’ failed to follow the Code, or reduce compensation by up to 25 per cent where the employee has ‘unreasonably’ failed to follow it.
If you would like more detailed information about conducting grievances, Ashby Cohen can help you. We specialise in employment law cases, and our years of experience as employment lawyers make us uniquely qualified to assist you with any grievance issues you may have. Please contact us for an initial free telephone consultation.
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