What you need to do…without unreasonable delay
This post was re-written during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
I originally wrote that COMPLIANCE might not be the most engaging subject in the world, but that it was “…nevertheless important”. Who could have imagined that in this beautiful democracy of ours we would so willingly comply with the Government’s instructions to ‘Stay Home’. But we have. Whether or not we will continue with this level of compliance, or will we rebel and never comply with the law again? Time will tell.
This post will inform you about the rules to do with grievances. It is not a unique perspective, using my many years of experience; it is just an explanation of the rules.
There are other sources of similar information, but as you’re here, you might as well stay. If you do, you will discover:
- An explanation of why you MUST have a Grievance Policy;
- An examination of what such a policy should contain, by way of a basic framework, and
- What the law expects of you; you will need to demonstrate that you have been both legally compliant AND ‘fair and reasonable.’
Policies do not have to be lengthy and legalistic. The shorter and clearer they are, the better. That also goes for any employment policy you have, and the fewer you have, the better.
In theory, you could decide not to have any policies at all, and as long as you:
- never upset anyone,
- pay everyone highly and treat them wonderfully well; and
- have a workforce that you can guarantee will have:
- the utmost honesty
- positivity, and
- will always put your needs above theirs for as long as they work for you.
IF, and it’s a massive ‘IF’, you can guarantee this, then you might be OK.
But, I don’t know anyone who can. I can’t, and I work for myself!
So, what does the law require concerning managing grievances?
Firstly, you MUST have a written grievance procedure:
If you want something simple that meets this requirement, in around 200 words, try this.
Short Form Grievance Policy
- Let us know if you have a concern or so that we can try to resolve it informally.
- If we can’t, you can raise a formal grievance. Our policy is:
- You set out your problem/issue in writing, and send it to us.
- We will investigate your grievance, then meet with you to discuss it further formally, ideally within the week.
- We will carefully listen while you explain what’s wrong and how you’d like it to be resolved, and investigate further if necessary.
- You can bring a companion or union rep to any formal meeting.
- Following these discussions, and any further investigations, we will let you know our decision, as to whether we can do anything to resolve your grievance, which we’ll confirm in writing.
- If you’re still not happy, you can appeal, within a week of receiving our decision in writing, by writing to us to explain why.
- We’ll meet formally again, as soon as we can, to consider your complaint once more.
- This time our decision will be final.
3. But, notwithstanding the above, we’d rather resolve matters informally, so if you can, talk to us as soon as you have an issue!
I suppose, if you wanted to be even briefer and put your HR policies on Twitter, your grievance policy, in less than 140 characters, could be:
“Problem? Chat? Sorted? No? Explain; Meeting; +1 welcome. Resolved? No?Why?; Appeal meeting (+1) to ANO? Sorted? Yes? Great! No? Sorry, BTW!*”
* “BTW” = Back to Work!
Now, I’m not seriously advocating the latter approach — and if I was picky, it’s not quite detailed enough as it doesn’t mention timescales or investigations — but it does form the framework of what your policy needs. Namely:
- an offer to resolve issues informally, and if that isn’t successful,
- (once the employee has provided you with details of the problem or grievance in writing) a more formal discussion where you meet to discuss it, before making your decision.
- And, if they are still not satisfied, they can appeal, preferably to somebody else in the organisation who wasn’t involved in the first decision. Nevertheless, if you are a (very) small business, it might be with you again. The decision taken at the appeal is then final.
So, dealing with a grievance is relatively straightforward, and can be done in no time at all. You could most probably follow the above steps in a week or two at the outside.
And, if you decide from the outset that you’re only going to ‘go through the motions’ with no intention of properly listening to your employee’s concerns, or changing anything as a result of what they say, you could wrap it all up in a few days… or possibly hours, or even minutes!
Is that how you want to run your business? If you have ever worked for anybody else, wasn’t it attitudes like that that made you want to leave?
As we’ve seen, the law says that you MUST have a written grievance procedure. Tick. But it also states that you SHOULD follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance.
In law, the difference between ‘MUST’ and ‘SHOULD’ is that the first is an instruction, whereas the second is a suggestion. But if you choose not to follow the Code of Practice and then lose a case at an Employment Tribunal, any award made against you may be increased by 25% for any “… unreasonable failure to comply with any provision” of the Code.
So how does the ACAS Code of Practice differ from our 200-word policy? Well, it states:
- What a grievance is. Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers.
- That employers and employees should act consistently.
- That employers should carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case.
Also, the ‘Code’ covers the issue of time limits, albeit not specifically. Instead, it uses the term “…without unreasonable delay”.
- when it’s not been possible to resolve a grievance informally, the employee should raise the matter formally and without unreasonable delay with a manager
- Employers should arrange for a formal meeting to be held without unreasonable delay after a grievance is received.
- Decisions should be communicated to the employee, in writing, without unreasonable delay and, where appropriate, should set out what action the employer intends to take to resolve the grievance.
- Where an employee feels that their grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved, they should appeal. They should let their employer know the grounds for their appeal without unreasonable delay and in writing.
- You should hear any appeals without unreasonable delay and you should notify the employee details of the time and place in advance.
- You should also communicate the outcome of the appeal to the employee in writing without unreasonable delay.
In summary; there can be delays, but if there are, they must be reasonable. Who decides whether any delay is reasonable or not? Ultimately an Employment Tribunal Judge.
It doesn’t take a lot to be compliant. If you are genuinely interested in creating a working environment where your employees can thrive, then you’ll most probably never receive a formal grievance. This is because if your employees have the opportunity to ‘give of their best’, then your business has more chance of succeeding too.
You will more than likely resolve any ‘issues’ along the way, with them, when they occur.
Or at the very least, without unreasonable delay.
- However big, or small, your business is, you must have a written grievance procedure.
- In the first instance, try to resolve any employee grievance informally.
- You should deal with all legitimate grievances “… without unreasonable delay”.
- You should follow the ACAS Code of Practice, as any failure to do so will increase any award made against you by 25%.
- You are most likely to minimise employee grievances if you are genuinely interested in creating a working environment where employees can thrive