All employers will be faced with an unhappy or disgruntled employee at some stage. Be it as a result of a reshuffle of the layout of the office, the implementation of new rules or a strained relationship between manager and team member, workplace issues are common place.
It is important that all employers have a grievance procedure in place. Not only are employers obliged to provide all employees with the details of their grievance procedure within 2 months of the employee’s start date, successful businesses also use their grievance procedure as a tool to resolve workplace issues both quickly and appropriately.
A grievance does not have to be raised in writing and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between when an employee is raising a gripe and does not want to take the issue any further and when they want to raise a formal grievance. The best way to deal with this uncertainty is simply to ask the employee “are you raising a formal grievance, which you would like to be investigated under our grievance procedure?” If the employee responds that they would like to raise a formal grievance then you should ask them to put the details in writing, in line with the grievance procedure.
It is important to ensure that all grievances are addressed, investigated and dealt with in a timely manner. Failing to deal with an employee’s grievance leaves the employer open to the risk of a constructive unfair dismissal claim.
It may also be that through investigating an accusation of bullying, it emerges that other employees have been bullying or harassing the complainant. Employers can be vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts of any of its employees. An employer can, however, rely on the defence that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the discriminatory behaviour. All reasonable steps will include thoroughly investigating any grievances relating to discriminatory behaviour and taking appropriate action.
If you would like assistance with implementing a grievance procedure or dealing with a tricky employee complaint then please contact a member of our team or see our Disciplinary and Grievances Guide for more information.