This is a chapter from the TUC Workplace Manual. Every rep will find The TUC Workplace Manual invaluable, and every rep will appreciate the wealth of practical advice and knowledge in this book.
Grievance procedures enable individuals to raise issues with management where they believe their rights have been infringed, or where they have concerns about how they have been treated by a manager, a colleague or a customer.
Grievances can relate to terms and conditions of employment, health and safety, work relations, bullying and harassment, discrimination, the working environment, new working practices or organisational change.
Many complaints and grievances can be best resolved informally in discussion with the individual’s immediate line manager. Where it is not possible or appropriate to resolve a grievance informally, it is best to deal with it under a formal grievance procedure.
Some workplaces have distinct procedures for handling different types of grievance, such as bullying and harassment or health and safety.
The same good practice principles should apply to all procedures. Depending on the size of the organisation, grievance procedures may have different stages. However, individuals should always have a right to appeal an outcome from an initial grievance hearing that they are not satisfied with. This is a requirement of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary Procedures and Grievances.
Before the hearing
You might find the following open questions helpful:
Grievance procedures should:
Clearly set out the outcome that the member is seeking, for example:
The types of argument that reps may be able to use in grievance procedures include:
Many grievances arise because employees believe that they are not receiving the terms and conditions they are entitled to, as set out in the staff handbook, the individual’s contract of employment or in statutory rights.
Where a grievance relates to a health and safety issue, it may be possible to use safety reps’ reports which identify risks or hazards in the workplace that may not have been dealt by the employers.
It is worth investigating the outcomes in similar grievances. The Acas Code states that employers should act consistently when dealing with grievances.
It may be important to gather information about other workers’ terms and conditions, particularly where an individual believes they are being discriminated against. Some workers have a right to equal treatment on a pro rata basis, for example part-time workers are entitled to the same holidays as a full-time worker on a pro rata basis depending on their hours of work.
In some grievances it may also be useful to refer to an individual’s personal circumstances. For example, an individual’s caring responsibilities will be very relevant where an individual is requesting flexible working patterns or parental leave.
The employer should inform the member of the outcome of the grievance meeting. The employer may decide to carry out investigations to check if the grievance is valid and substantiated. In this case, they should reconvene another meeting to discuss the outcomes, at which the individual has the right to be accompanied.
The rep should:
Remember that employment tribunal deadlines are very short. If tribunal deadlines are missed, the member is unlikely to be allowed to pursue their claim.
Before the appeal meeting, meet and discuss with the member the possible outcomes of the appeal. Discuss what the aim of the appeal should be and any consequences for the member if they decide to appeal.
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