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Managing grievances


A grievance hearing is part of a formal process which allows an employee to first put their complaint in writing and then have a meeting with their Manager/Director to have their complaint heard.

It is important to remember that a grievance hearing is not a disciplinary hearing where the employee is being called to task for something they may or may not have done.  It is an occasion when discussion and dialogue may lead to an amicable solution.

Holding the hearing

  • make introductions as necessary
  • invite the employee to re-state their grievance and how they would like to see it resolved (asking what resolution the employee wants to see from the grievance)
  • put care and thought into resolving grievances. They are not normally issues calling for snap decisions, and the employee may have been holding the grievance for a long time. Make allowances for any reasonable ‘letting off steam’ if the employee is under stress
  • consider adjourning the meeting if it is necessary to investigate any new facts which arise
  • sum up the main points
  • tell the employee when they might reasonably expect a response if one cannot be made at the time, bearing in mind the time limits set out in the organisation’s procedure
  • above all, keep calm and objective – the grievance is not a personal criticism and needs to be heard and dealt with as fairly as possible

The employee’s companion

As a formal meeting, the employee has a right to be accompanied at the meeting by a colleague or Trade Union representative.  The companion is allowed to address the meeting in order to:

  • put the employee’s case
  • sum up the employee’s case
  • respond on the employee’s behalf to any view expressed at the hearing
  • confer with the employee during the meeting.

The companion can also confer with the employee during the hearing. It is good practice to allow the companion to participate as fully as possible in the hearing, including asking witnesses questions. The employer is, however not legally required to permit the companion to answer questions on the employee’s behalf, or to address the hearing if the employee does not wish it, or to prevent the employer from explaining their case.

After the hearing

Once the grievance has been heard, the employer should explain to the employee what happens next, i.e. investigations will take place or the employer will consider everything that the employee has said and make a decision which will be put in writing to the employee (give an idea of timeframe of the response if possible).

Need to deal with a grievance but don’t know where to start? We can help every step of the way