By Philippa Webster, Consultant at Croner
Employers may find themselves from time to time investigating and resolving grievances, but what is a best practice approach?
There are several stages:
- where the employee submits a written grievance ensure that you acknowledge receipt and invite the employee to an investigatory hearing
- consider who else may need to be interviewed
- gather evidence
- review all the evidence and send a findings report to the employee
Acknowledgement and invitation to grievance hearing
The employee should be sent a letter from the investigating manager. This letter should outline:
- The date of submission of the grievance and the date received
- The employee's invitation to a grievance hearing
- That the grievance hearing is for the employee's grievances to be addressed
- The employee's statutory right to be accompanied by a work colleague of his or her choice, a certified trade union representative or an officer employed by a trade union
This meeting allows the employee to talk about the grievance, give details of the grievance and bring evidence. Make sure that robust notes are taken – however, the employee should be asked if they mind and after the hearing be sent a copy of the notes.
As the investigating manager, listen carefully to all the points made by the employee, ask questions where more information is required, and ask for clarity in areas where he or she is unclear.
At the end of the meeting:
- run through the main points
- ask the employee whether there is anything else he or she wishes to add
- ask the employee to read, amend, sign and date any notes that have been taken
The employee should be sent a typed copy, if that is normal practice, for signing and dating and a copy of the hand-written notes.
After the meeting, the investigating manager should review the notes, review any other evidence that has been submitted, and where he or she is not sure of any information such as dates, times and clarity of examples submitted then this should be followed up with the employee. This could be via e-mail, letter or a telephone conversation.
Investigatory meetings with others
From the submitted written grievance, ascertain what other initial investigation should commence. This may include:
- investigatory meetings with those named in the grievance
- investigatory e-mail trails of evidence
- investigating by reviewing the personnel files of those involved
- reviewing the detail in meeting notes.
Where investigatory meetings are required, the employee(s) should:
- be asked to meet the investigatory manager and outline the grievance
- be given a letter inviting him or her to an investigatory meeting and outlining that it is purely investigatory and, therefore, at this stage there is no statutory right to be accompanied, and outlining whether there will be a note-taker
Preparation for the meeting is paramount for the investigating manager. Using the written grievance, he or she should develop a set of questions to ask the employee against whom the grievance has been made.
At this meeting, the employee should be asked to clarify what has happened and give details and submit evidence either then or later, should they wish.
Again, all meeting notes should be read, amended and dated. It should be made clear that these notes may be used at a later date should further steps be determined as the way forward.
Gathering and reviewing evidence
Once the interviews are done and other evidence submitted or reviewed by the investigating manager, he or she needs to give careful consideration to:
- the evidence
- whether other people need to be interviewed
- whether more evidence needs to be viewed and considered
The investigating manager needs to consider and take a view on the validity of the evidence, whether there are any gaps in the evidence, and whether some interviewees need to be interviewed again to give more evidence or answer further questions.
The findings report
The investigating manager needs to ensure that he or she makes a fair judgment against all the evidence as to what the outcome of the investigation should be. The outcome will depend on the evidence – it may be that:
- some or all of the grievance(s) is upheld or partially upheld
- the employee bringing the grievance may have brought the grievance maliciously or vexatiously and this may lead to disciplinary action being considered against him or her
- the person(s) against whom the grievance has been brought may well have acted in unreasonable manner, eg harassed or bullied the employee bringing the grievance and, therefore, a disciplinary sanction may be brought against him or her.
The outcome should always be evidence-based with a robust investigatory process.
Whatever the outcome, the employee bringing the grievance should have the findings outlined in a robust report. This should outline:
- the original grievance
- how the investigation was conducted, eg who was interviewed
- other areas taken into consideration, eg e-mail trails
- the submissions, the findings and the conclusions
Finally, the employee who brought the grievance should be given the opportunity to appeal.
When managing a grievance process, each situation may be different, so it is advisable to seek guidance from an HR expert. For more information visit www.cronersolutions.co.uk
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