FAQ’s Grievances for Employers
This is the last in the series of guidance for employers on dealing with grievances and this week I answer some of the frequently asked questions about grievances.
The employee has raised a grievance related to a disciplinary process what should I do?
If an employee raises a grievance during an ongoing disciplinary process you have the option of placing the disciplinary on hold pending the outcome of the grievance or you could run them parallel to each other so that neither process is delayed.
If the grievance relates to the disciplinary issues you may decide that it would be appropriate to join the two processes together so that the grievance and disciplinary are investigated together. If you decide to do this it is important to communicate the decision and reason for joining them together to the employee.
If the employee objects to joining them then it is important to consider their reasons for objecting and in order to ensure a fair process it may be appropriate to agree to investigate separately.
Unless your own internal procedures say otherwise there is no requirement to place a disciplinary on hold whilst the grievance is dealt with.
The key is to deal with both processes fairly and communicate with the employee throughout.
Should I suspend an employee who has raised a grievance?
I would advise that you think very carefully about the reasons for suspending an employee and why you feel this is appropriate.
In most cases it is not appropriate to suspend an employee who has raised a grievance and it could be seen by the employee as a form of punishment for raising a grievance.
If you feel that suspension is the only option whilst you are investigating the grievance I recommend that you communicate the reasons to the employee very carefully; that you explain it is not a reflection on them or their grievance; and clearly state the timescale for suspension.
Raising a grievance can be very difficult for employees and to be excluded from work will only make their anxiety even higher.
Should I move an employee who has raised a grievance to another area?
This may be a more appropriate temporary measure than suspension however, again you should consider your reasons for this very carefully and ensure that it is not seen as a form of punishment or detrimental treatment. If at all possible I recommend finding other ways of working round the situation.
For employers faced with a grievance which involves two employees who work closely together it can be a difficult situation to manage so you should try to remain as neutral as possible whilst investigating the issue, but it may be impossible for the two of employees to work together. The easiest way round it would be to remove both of them from the situation and perhaps move each to another department while you investigate, again communicating your reasons very clearly to both employees.
Do employees have the right to be accompanied during grievance investigation meetings?
There is no legal right to be accompanied at a grievance investigation meeting, however you should check your own policy or procedure to see if this includes a right to be accompanied.
Although there is no legal right to be accompanied I would recommend allowing an employee to be accompanied if they request to be accompanied and it is appropriate to do so. The meeting will be more useful if the employee feels relaxed and at ease, and this will be helped if they have someone accompanying them.
Does an employee have the right to be accompanied at the grievance hearing?
There is a difference between the grievance investigation and grievance hearing and employees have the legal right to be accompanied at the grievance hearing by a work colleague or trade union representative.
The grievance hearing is held with the employee who raised the grievance.
The law does distinguish different types of grievances and not all types of grievance give rise to the right to be accompanied, but it is safer to allow employees to be accompanied at the grievance hearing regardless of the content of their grievance.
Aside from avoiding liability it is good practice, as with the investigation meeting, to allow an employee to be accompanied. For this reason you may also consider agreeing that they can be accompanied by a friend or relative rather than a work colleague or trade union representative.
I am of the view that it is important to be reasonable and put the employee at ease during the process.
What should I do if the grievance is about me and I am the only person who can investigate grievances?
This is a common problem for small businesses, especially owner managed businesses. In this situation if there really is no-one within the business to deal with the grievance it would be good practice to find someone outside of the business to help.
This could be another business owner whom you trust and who will assist, or you can obtain help from a professional HR person or legal professional.
We have experienced grievance investigators available to help at a very reasonable cost if you require.
Although technically you can investigate the grievance yourself if there is no-one else available, you should be aware that if you fail to deal with the grievance fairly it could be a breach of your implied duty of trust and confidence. For an example of this see this Constructive Dismissal Case.
What do we need to do if an employee raises a grievance after they have left employment?
There is no express legal requirement to follow the ACAS code and investigate former employee grievances. You will of course need to check what it says in your own policy or procedure about this.
Although there is no express legal requirement to investigate and deal with grievances from former employees it is good practice to do so. It will assist you in possibly preventing an Employment Tribunal claim and/or limiting liability.
Can I uphold part of the grievance?
Yes if you only agree with part of the grievance you can uphold part of it and explain your reasons for doing so in your decision letter.
If you have any questions that I have not covered please get in touch [email protected] or leave a comment below.
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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.
The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.