16th January 2014

Why I Like Employee Grievances

Most employers and HR professionals will groan when faced with the prospect of dealing with an employee grievance.  This is completely understandable and it is always disappointing when an employer is unable to resolve matters informally with its employees.  However as an employer, I am of the view that, in certain circumstances, employee grievances should be welcomed.

A formal grievance allows the employer to assess the validity of the complaint
There may be situations where an employer does not recognise that its practices are potentially unfair.  By encouraging employees to use the formal grievance procedure, it allows for any unfair practices to be identified, addressed and hopefully resolved.  By the same token, if an employer’s practices are justified and proportionate, in determining a grievance the employer’s position can be formally explained to the disgruntled employee.

A formal grievance creates a useful paper trail
Employers and HR professionals will know the value of a coherent paper trail.  It is best practice for every significant conversation with an employee to be recorded in that employee’s personnel file.  Minutes of formal meetings are extremely useful if an employer’s actions are scrutinised at a later date by an employment tribunal.  However, occasionally, the content of any correspondence from the employee will be a more useful tool in assessing credibility, particularly in cases of constructive dismissal where the employee has resigned from employment.  In these circumstances, an employee’s formal written grievance can be more useful evidence to a tribunal than the minutes of a meeting which have been solely prepared by the employer.

A formal grievance system will filter out nonsense groans
Employers are frequently faced with employee issues which are relatively minor and unresolvable.  If an employer has sought to informally resolve an issue with an employee but the employee still remains unhappy, the employee should be invited to lodge a formal grievance.  In such situations, the employer will be able to test the employee’s resolve and frequently the employee will elect not to pursue the issue formally.  By encouraging use of the formal grievance procedure, this course of action should assist employers in filtering out the time-wasting, nonsense groans.

Ultimately I believe that an effectively-run grievance procedure should be an asset to any employer.  If an employer can efficiently consider and determine grievances, both informally and formally, this process should allow for the continued successful management of your staff.

Simon Allison
Partner – Employment Law

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