Conflicts and disputes are unavoidable in the workplace but how conflicts are resolved is of crucial importance. When dealt with in a timely manner then can resolved easily with little or no formalactions required.
Research carried out by Adare Human Resource Management for its HR Barometer Pulse Series 7.1,cited that 69% of Organisations experienced workplace conflict in 2022, an increase of 23% on the previous year and with that comes a significant rise in costs to businesses. Whether additional costs are borne from management’s time in addressing complaints or additional financial resources in investigating complaints, it is important to benchmark the costs to your business each year to either manage or mitigate the causes of these complaints but also to support a work environment that is more collegial.
And while businesses seek to reduce the number of complaints that arise each year it is also essential to follow a structured process when or if a complaint arises.
The Grievance Procedure
The grievance procedure is an official process to address a complaint raised by an employee againsttheir employer in relation to treatment that is believed to be wrong or unfair. Employers should follow a structured process to address these issues as the matter is very sensitive. Employers should maintain confidentiality around any grievance and follow the Code of Practice that promotes a grievance procedure which includes informal and formal channels of resolution.
At the informal stage, an employee is expected to raise their complaint with their line manager and discuss the issue of concern informally. The employee’s manager should consider the complaint carefully, the potential solutions outlined by the employee as well as the best approach for the organisation and issue a response within a reasonable timeframe. It is important that brief notes are kept of informal meetings as well as reasoning behind any decision or response issued. The majority of grievances are resolved in this way on a day-to-day basis, without the term grievance even being used.
Where an employee is dissatisfied with the response received at the informal stage, then they should be allowed raise the issue with their manager formally in writing and have a formal hearing to consider the grievance. The employee should be afforded representation at this hearing should they wish to avail of this. The employee should be encouraged to articulate their grievance and also propose solutions. The manager should consider the situation carefully and not respond immediately but arrange a follow up hearing to communicate their response. Where the employee deems any stage to be inappropriate, or they are dissatisfied with the response received at an earlier stage, then they may raise the issue formally in writing with another manager. An employee is entitled to skip any stage of the process (including the informal stage) and should not
be subject to any reprisal or victimisation for raising an issue under the procedures.
Ensuring Compliant Practices
The Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary procedures sets out principles which should beadhered to in any grievance management procedure. It sets out the rights of an employee which must be upheld throughout the procedure. Although a breach of the Code does not automatically leave an Organisation open to litigation or fines in itself, a failure to adhere to the principles in the Code may increase the risk of a claim of constructive dismissal by an employee.
The general principles which should be applied in every grievance procedure as set out in the Code are
• The procedure must be rational and fair.
• The basis for any grievance must be clear.
• There must be an internal appeals mechanism.
• The procedure should be reviewed in line with current practices.
• Grievance procedures should generally commence with an informal stage where the employee
addresses the issue directly with their Manager before the formal process is commenced.
• The principles of natural justice must be adhered to which include;
• Details of the complaint being put to the Organisation.
o The Organisation must be afforded an opportunity to respond.
o The employee should be afforded the opportunity to avail of representation, defined
in the Code of Practice as a colleague, or member of a registered Trade Union, but not
any other person or body unconnected with the enterprise.
o The employee has a right to a fair and impartial determination of the issues concerned
taking account of relevant factors and evidence.
• Steps in the procedure should generally be progressive, however it is acknowledged that in
certain situations the employee may choose to raise an issue at the later stages of the
procedure without recourse to the informal stages or other stages of the procedure.
• The procedure should set out levels of responsibility for each stage of the procedure.
• Adequate records must be kept in relation to grievance situations.
Failing to hear and manage employee complaints can lead to poor employee relations, employee dissatisfaction, higher levels of absenteeism and a higher turnover of employees. In addition, a failure to have in place a clearly communicated grievance procedure can expose an employer to liability for breaches of other legislation, in particular under the Unfair Dismissals Acts. It is therefore of paramount importance that all complaints brought to an employer are addressed immediately to mitigate any concerns arising in the workplace.
Identifying key strategic priorities for the upcoming year and developing your HR strategy with a focus on the people agenda will support an environment that puts the employee experience first.
So how are you planning for your Organisation’s HR Priorities and Challenges in 2024?
By taking part in the HR Barometer 7.2 Survey, you will help us provide an accurate analysis of the key trends influencing the employment landscape, which you can use to benchmark against your own Organisation.
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If you require advice, guidance or support, please contact the Adare Human Resource Management team at (01) 561 3594 or email email@example.com for more information on how wecan help and support your Business under our Partnership Programme