Understanding Grievances

We assuming that you’re reading this blog for advice on how to handle an existing grievance. You’ve come to the right place. Help is at hand.

We’ll provide you with the guidance on how to address an existing grievance with effective resolution strategies. We’ll also cover how to, perhaps, avoid them in future by the proactive HR measures that you can take going forward.

It’s important that you manage them effectively. Not managed properly, they can lead to people leaving, lower moral and potential legal issues.

What is a Grievance?

A grievance is a formal complaint raised by an employee concerning workplace issues, which may include unfair treatment, workplace harassment, discrimination, or dissatisfaction with company policies and practices. It’s more than a simple dispute. It’s a complaint that is lodged formally, usually in writing, usually against another person in your business based on what they have done or said.

Importance of a Grievance Policy

You’re starting point is always your grievance policy. How you deal with a grievance should be clearly set out in a grievance policy as part of your Staff Handbook.  A well-defined grievance policy provides, for your employees, a structured approach for employees to raise their concerns and, for you, the employer, ensures that you have a way to respond to them, consistently and fairly.

Don’t have a grievance policy? Then you need to refer to the ACAS Code of practice on Disciplinaries and Grievances. https://www.acas.org.uk/disciplinary-and-grievance-procedures

The Grievance Handling Process

Step 1: Acknowledge the Grievance

You should always acknowledge receipt of the grievance promptly. This initial acknowledgment reassures the employee that their concern is being taken seriously.

Step 2: Investigate Thoroughly

You need to conduct a thorough investigation to gather all relevant facts. This may include:
– Interviews: Speaking with the complainant, the alleged offender, and any witnesses.
– Document Review**: Examining any relevant documents, emails, or other records.
– Site Visits: Observing the workplace environment if applicable.

Step 3: Assess and Decide

This involves evaluating the evidence objectively and decide on the appropriate action. Considerations should include:
– Company Policy: Ensure decisions are in line with company policies and legal requirements.
– Fairness: Strive for fairness and impartiality in the decision-making process.

Step 4: Communicate the Decision

You will need to communicate the outcome of the investigation to the complainant and, if necessary, to the alleged offender. This communication should include:
– The Decision: Clearly state the decision and the reasoning behind it.
– Next Steps: Outline any further actions or remedies that will be taken.
– Appeal Process: You must inform the complainant of their right to appeal if they are not satisfied with the outcome.

Step 5: Implement and Monitor

You must implement the agreed-upon actions and monitor the situation to ensure the grievance has been fully resolved. This might involve:
– Follow-Up Meetings: Regular check-ins with the complainant to ensure their concerns have been addressed.

Step 6: Hold an Appeal meeting, if required

If the decision is appealed, you must run an appeal meeting.

  • This must be undertaken by a different person to the one who heard the grievance
  • They must follow steps 1-5 (again)
  • They must communicate their decision as whether the original decision is “upheld” or “overturned”. That decision is final.

Preventive Grievance Measures

Of course, they’re preventative measures that can reduce the chances of future grievances. Here’s our tips.

1. Promote a Positive Work Environment

It goes without saying. Things like open communication, equality and diversity across all of your HR practices, and transparency in your recognition and reward reduce the chance of someone claiming that they have been unfairly treated

2. Regular Policy Reviews

Regularly review and update grievance policies to ensure they remain relevant and effective. Don’t just stick the policy on a shelf to gather dust. Share with employees. Also, train managers on how to use the grievance process effectively.

3. Conflict Resolution Training

Very few managers like conflict and even fewer are trained to deal with it. Ongoing conflict resolution training for managers will equip them with the skills to handle disputes before they escalate into formal grievances. Not recognising early signs of dissatisfaction or conflict and dealing with them quickly and effectively is THE biggest cause of grievances in our experience.

4. Grievance Management Software

Utilise HR software to streamline the grievance process. Also it ensures ensuring that that you keep detailed records of grievances and outcomes for future reference, should it ever “go legal”.


Effectively dealing with grievances can be a stressful time. The key is to take the emotion out of the situation by following the process we have outlined.

The best way to avoid the stress totally from a grievance is to avoid the situation in the first place. And the best way to avoid it involves a proactive approach, clear policies, and continuous training.

By fostering a positive work environment and leveraging technology, businesses can not only resolve grievances efficiently, when they do arise, but also prevent them from arising in the first place.

Implementing these strategies ensures that employees feel heard, valued, and respected, ultimately contributing to a more productive and harmonious workplace.
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