The main purpose of a structured grievance process is to keep the workplace fair.
For example, if you were to listen to the grievance of Employee A, allow them to air their concerns and put a plan in place to resolve their grievance moving forward, then this would be good management.
However, if you were then to dismiss the concerns of Employee B and refuse to allow them to express their concerns or implement any plan to resolve them, (i.e. by saying “I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do”) then this would be unfair.
The grievance procedure ensures that any grievance, even those which may be unfounded, are listened to and investigated accordingly. Quite often, an employee will be happy to simply have their concerns listened to and their views respected by management.
Although all grievances may not be resolved, if a grievance procedure has been followed correctly an employee will have been given the opportunity to express their concerns, have them listened to by management, and have an appropriate response or explanation as to why their desired outcome may not be possible.
The grievance procedure is also a good way of understanding what may be occurring within the workplace. Quite often, employees behave differently when supervised by managers and it may be that underlying issues are not noticed until an employee raises concerns.
It can be tempting to ignore these concerns as untrue if you have not witnessed the alleged issues yourself. However, if you follow the grievance procedure (and especially the investigation of the complaint) you may discover issues you were unaware of, allowing you to take action to resolve them and keep your workplace working efficiently.
What are the legal requirements?
The Employment Act 2008: The Act came into force in April 2009 and repealed The Employment Act 2002, which removed the minimum statutory Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. These were a mandatory procedure which employers had to follow in cases of disciplinary and grievance.
The Employment Act 2008 replaced this statutory obligation with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. These guidelines are not legally binding, and allow employers a more flexible approach to dispute management.
ACAS Code of Practice: Whilst not legally binding, the code should be followed by employers (and employees) wherever possible.
Failure to follow the code (without good reason) can result in a 25% increase in any award given by a tribunal (in the case of an employer failing to follow the code) or a 25% reduction in any award given by a tribunal (in the case of an employee failing to follow the code).