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The form your grievance and disciplinary procedures should take

Staff complaints can make for awkward situations, but having grievance and disciplinary procedures in place will help you quickly establish the facts and take action.
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No one wants to acknowledge that some employees don’t do their work or resort to bullying. We’re adults, after all, but alas these things happen. That being the case, it’s handy to have grievance and disciplinary procedures ready for when the occasion arises.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you formulate your own, starting with the Acas guide – think of it as your best friend.

Setting out the grievance process

Grievances are complaints raised by employees about work, spanning workload, environment and even colleagues. Your company should be making it easy for staff to get these views, even if negative, across.

Namely, you should share your grievance procedure with employees from the outset – that’s law, the Acas guide is very specific about this. You really need to read it. If an employment tribunal later finds you didn’t follow the basics then up to 25 per cent compensation can be awarded to staff, but I digress. 

Often included in the pages of the employee handbook, information about your grievance and disciplinary procedures must include who to contact and be written in a clear and concise manner. 

Managers should also be given knowledge on what actions are considered reasonable. This way, the situation can be handled fairly and consistently.

It’s normally suggested employees put their grievances across in writing, after which their line manager will take them to the side to find out more about the situation. It’s best to tackle the problem quickly, which can be done quite efficiently in terms of workload issues, but it’s when other people are involved where things get tricky.

In this case, one would hold a meeting with the employee raising the complaint, to which they are allowed to bring a companion. In case you’re wondering, yes, said companion can voice their opinion. No, they can’t answer on behalf of the employee.

Staff should also be allowed to explain their problem and how they think it should be resolved. Take minutes for all grievance meetings – it will help later on if a disciplinary meeting occurs.

The discipline end of things

It may sounds simple, but never jump to conclusions; look for the facts first. And sometimes a written warning does the trick, especially when it comes to misconduct or poor performance.

Stipulate for how long the warning will remain current. If the situation hasn’t improved since then, a final warning should be sent their way. In the eyes of Acas though: “If an employee’s first misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is sufficiently serious, it may be appropriate to move directly to a final warning. This might occur where the employee’s actions have had, or are liable to have, a harmful impact.”

Any written warning will need to contain an explanation of what will happen if things don’t change for the better. This could be anything from demotion to dismissal, but we’ll focus on the disciplinary meeting – otherwise called a hearing.

You’ll need to clarify in writing what complaint has been made against them and inform them a disciplinary meeting is to take place. Time, place and venue are the fundamental basics you can’t miss out. If any evidence has been provided by the employee who filed the complaint, then include them with the notification. This affords them with preparation material.

As was possible with the grievance meeting, the employee has the right to be accompanied, if you so allow in the case of a hearing – and the same rules apply. Tell them what you’ve heard and allow them to put their own point across. Then decide on which action, if any, you plan to take – and tell both employees involved. 

If an employee files for an appeal against your decision – yes, they can – then it’s best to involve a manager that wasn’t part of the procedure to take a second look.

Image: Shutterstock

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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