Handling grievances

Holding a grievance hearing


For any grievance hearing, you should:

  • ensure that it's private and won't be interrupted
  • if the grievance concerns a line manager, consider who else can hear the complaint
  • tell the employee about the right to be accompanied
  • introduce everyone and explain why they are present
  • explain the reason for the hearing and how it will be conducted
  • listen carefully to the person's explanation of the problem - consider whether there is another issue which might be the root cause of the grievance
  • listen to any conflicting points of view
  • weigh up all the evidence to see whether there is an issue you need to address
  • consider adjourning the meeting if further advice or information needs to be sought
  • avoid snap decisions even if the solution initially seems obvious - consider possible repercussions

It's crucial that you deal with grievances sensitively and in the strictest confidence, particularly where they concern other employees. You'll need to develop specific procedures for very sensitive claims involving unfair treatment, eg discrimination, bullying or harassment. Read more on bullying and harassment.

Making the decision

Once the hearing is over:

  • decide what action to take - try to balance fairness to the person without compromising the business or other employees
  • inform the person who raised the grievance and, where appropriate, any other concerned parties - in writing - of your decision and the appeal process - read more on appeals against grievance decisions
  • the person who raised the grievance should be given a full explanation as to how the decision was reached
  • review your grievance procedure - if this particular claim has highlighted problems

Dealing with delays

If the employee is genuinely unable to attend the grievance hearing, eg because they are ill, offer them a reasonable date and time as an alternative.

You should let your employee know that decisions may be taken in their absence if they fail to attend rearranged meetings without good reason.

If the employee's companion cannot make the rearranged hearing, the employee must propose another date and time no more than five working days after the day proposed by you.

If the employee fails to attend the rearranged hearing without good reason, this stage of the procedure is complete and you can make your decision there and then. Don't forget that you will still have to tell the employee in writing of the decision and that they have the right to appeal.

If you cannot make the rearranged hearing, you must offer the employee a reasonable alternative date and time.

Dealing with long-term absence

An employee may become anxious and stressed in the run-up to a grievance hearing, for example, if their grievance relates to another employee and they have to face this person at work. This can lead in some cases to them being absent for weeks or even months due to stress-related illness.

If this situation arises, you can ask the employee's GP and/or an occupational health specialist for a medical report. You must gain the employee's agreement before doing so.

You should ask for the report to state whether or not the worker is fit enough to attend a hearing in the near future:

  • If they are deemed fit enough, you should arrange the hearing with the employee in the normal way.
  • If not, you might not be able to complete the grievance procedure without unreasonable delay. In this situation, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to treat the procedure as having been completed and make a decision in the employee's absence. However, you should still tell the worker that they can supply written representation or other material if they wish.