An employee has just provided you with a written grievance. However, you have some doubts about whether the content has been fabricated to get somebody else into trouble. Are you still required to investigate it?
The definition of grievances according to ACAS are “concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employer”. An employee may raise a grievance about anything that concerns them, e.g. conditions of employment, health and safety matters, working relationships, new working practices, alleged bullying and discrimination. The ACAS Code of Practice says that a grievance should be raised in writing and without unreasonable delay.
When this happens the Code states that the employer should:
- Arrange for a formal meeting to be held with the employee to discuss their grievance; and
- Communicate its decision to the employee (including any action it intends to take to resolve the matter) without unreasonable delay.
Unfortunately, whilst grievance procedures are governed by the Code it does not give any indication as to your ability to reject an employee’s grievance or in what circumstances this might be permissible. So does that mean you’ve no choice but to trigger your formal procedure and go through the motions? The answer to this is “not yet”. The Code recommends that wherever possible employers should try to resolve grievances informally.
So the best advice is to have an informal chat with the employee first, as soon as possible. Explain firmly but politely that in order to investigate their grievance properly you will need clear evidence of what it is they are alleging and will expect this to be available at any formal grievance meeting.
Tip 1 – For example, where a complaint has been made about another employee, tell them that you will need to know specific dates, times, what was said/happened, whether there were any independent witnesses, etc. Advise them that you will be speaking to the other person(s) concerned to obtain their version of events.
Tip 2 – Ask them if they wish to proceed with the formal process. If it is fabricated they probably won’t. However, if they do, follow your grievance procedure as normal and insist on seeing their evidence.
Tip 3 – Check your disciplinary policy as it may be helpful to mention that an employee may leave themselves open for disciplinary action if they are found to be making a fraudulent statement.
Grievances and people matters such as this can feel overwhelming and MAD-HR are here to step in to assist you in dealing with situations such as this. Whether you need to get ‘grievance ready’ with our Online HR Toolkit and review your policies and procedures, or whether you need some good old fashioned human advice, contact us today to see how we can help.
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