According to an HR survey, and borne out by our own professional experience, grievances are on the rise. In fact, 37% of employers reported an increase in grievances in the past 12 months.
The number one cause of grievances? The survey had it down as “feuding and conflicting colleagues” – representing 47% of grievances. A different survey framed the leading cause as “bullying and harassment” which obviously has a considerable overlap, reinforcing the point.
Factors like “pay” and “work/life balance” were runners up, albeit distant ones, in the causes of grievances.
Even when managed well, grievances can become a considerable distraction to your business. But when they are mishandled they can become all-consuming, and potentially very expensive.
So with grievances on the rise, the time is ripe to look at good management practices to help you and your business stay on track.
A grievance policy is essential
As with so much in HR, having a policy is your foundation to good practice. It gives you the framework in which to respond to grievances as they arise. As a minimum, your policy should follow the Acas code of practice.
Within your policy, allow room for less serious matters to be dealt with informally first, not making a big deal out of them in cases where it is not necessary. By nipping such matters in the bud, you may save everyone lots of time and energy.
If this is unsuccessful, they should put the grievance in writing. Schedule a meeting for the purpose of you understanding the full facts. This may present you with another opportunity to resolve the grievance relatively simply, if it is established that it was based on a misunderstanding. Ensure you keep a written record of proceedings.
However, some grievances will require more work to resolve, and if your initial meetings do not bring an end to the matter, you may have to conduct an investigation.
Getting your investigation right
If possible, it is best to have a different person carry out your investigation, which helps bring a sense of impartiality.
We help many businesses by taking on the role of investigator, whether that is because they are too small to have an in-house staff member who is sufficiently removed from the situation, or they just want it handled as professionally as possible without taking someone away from their primary role.
During the investigation, everyone involved should be given the opportunity to have their say before you make your final decision. The investigator should take signed statements from all the witnesses.
Once the investigation is concluded, you must notify the relevant people of the outcome in writing. The employee should be given the right to appeal if they are not satisfied.
If the grievance is between two colleagues, mediation may be a useful tool to use in order to re-establish a good working relationship.
Help with grievances
As the statistics quoted earlier reveal, you are not alone if you are finding grievances impacting your operations.
Help is at hand though. The HR Dept can help you put policies in place or review your current policy if it is not working for you; or act as an independent consultant to manage a grievance from start to finish, or specifically to carry out an investigation.