Employment Law

Grievances in Disguise

Our team of specialists are ready to help your business today

Being able to identify the different (not-so-obvious) ways in which grievances may arise is an invaluable skill for any manager to have. Not dealing with issues early risks matters becoming more emotionally fuelled, involving more people and ultimately taking up more management time. This article is here to help!

What is a grievance?

Stripping this back to basics, grievances are concerns, problems, or complaints that an employee raises with their employer during the course of their employment.

The subject of the grievance could relate to matters ranging from interpersonal relationships within the workplace (this includes issues relating to discrimination, bullying and harassment) to issues about pay, benefits, workload or working conditions. A very broad range indeed.

How a grievance may be raised.

Although you will have an internal grievance procedure in place for employees to raise grievances, what happens in the event that employee doesn’t think their issue is serious enough to be a grievance? The answer is, the employee will find a way of communicating this.

The most common way to communicate an issue is verbally and to management. It’s not common for an employee to state they are raising an informal grievance but this is what is understood when they approach management to discuss an issue.

Less obvious grievances are disguised in other forms of communication. For example, within a resignation letter. If an employee raises concerns of bullying or poor management in their resignation letter, management should seek clarity on whether the employee wishes to discuss the issues raised informally or formally (if the complaints are sufficiently serious). Simply ignoring these may give them employee the ticket to pursue these externally in an Employment Tribunal.

An employee may also communicate issues via email when responding to processes such as performance review or appraisal reviews. Issues relating to poor management causing unmanageable workloads should be addressed and the employee asked if they wish to discuss these separately.

If ever in doubt about whether a grievance has been raised, seeking clarity from the employee themselves. This will work in favour of both parties in addressing this early.

Practical steps

Catching grievances early prevents these from growing into bigger issues. Having practical tools in place to ensure these are caught early are useful. Examples include:

– Having regular one on one check-ins with employees
– Having an open-door policy in place allowing employees to approach management if needed
– Allowing employees to provide feedback anonymously (or not) via a ‘box’ system
– Conducting exit interviews for employees leaving the business

Author: Shamaila Gul, Employment Law Solicitor at Howarths

If you have a question about grievances, the process or how to approach a complex grievance situation and would like our assistance then please contact the Employment Team on 01274 864999

© 2022 Howarths UK