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Employee Grievance

What is Employee Grievance?

Employee grievance refers to the discontentment of an employee with the corporate and its management. A company or employer is expected to provide an employee with a safe working environment, clear knowledge of job responsibilities, adequate compensation, respect etc. However, employee grievance is caused when there is a gap between what the employee expects and what he receives from the employer.

Employee grievances may or may not be justified. However, they need to be tackled adequately by the leadership team because they not only lower the motivation and performance of the employee but also affects the work environment. Employee grievances if left unchecked can lead to large disputes within the company. It can also drop the motivation levels of other employees. Any company must have a proper channel for employee grievance redressal.

Employee Grievance should be handled in a proper and well defined manner. If an employee voice is raised or someone reports a matter associated with a policy or one thing he or she isn't pleased with or needs to criticism against, a framework outlined in policy ought to be used.


What are the types of Employee Grievance?

These are the most common examples of employee grievances.

  • Pay and benefits.
  • Bullying.
  • Work conditions.
  • Workload.

Let's go through each one in a little more detail.

Pay and benefits grievances

As an employer, you've probably had at least one member of your staff come to you to express that they're unhappy with what you're paying them.

Your employee might mention:

  • That they want a higher salary.
  • They think they should be earning as much as somebody who does a similar job in the organisation.
  • They might be trying to receive expenses—such as for their commute.

Make sure that you have a pay and benefits policy that outlines how often you will conduct salary and benefits reviews with your staff, and ensure that any documents your employees receive are in line with this policy.

Bullying grievances

It's inevitable that members of staff in your workplace just won't get on. But that doesn't mean you should allow bullying or harassment. You must have a zero tolerance policy.

Ensure that you give everyone your anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies, and always email any updates or revisions. These policies should include the disciplinary procedure you'll follow if somebody lodges a grievance for bullying or harassment.

Working conditions grievances

Nobody wants to lose a valuable employee because of problems with their workplace conditions. It's up to you to prevent this.

Think about:

  • Cleanliness on the office floors or in the kitchen.
  • Desk etiquette.
  • Bathroom conditions.
  • Health and safety hazards.
  • Temperatures in the workplace.

Conduct workplace risk assessments regularly to identify any possible hazards, such as a leak.

Have a first aid officer, a first aid kit, and signs designating fire exits.

Outfit your office with fire extinguishers. Other obvious essentials include refuse bins around obvious areas, such as a kitchen or canteen and near desks, too. Don't forget about toiletries: toilet paper and hand soap/sanitiser.

As part of your assessment, you could assess whether you should invest in air conditioning for the summer, or radiators if the office gets cold in the winter.

Workload grievances

You can often find a link between grievances about their workload, and pay and benefits issues that staff raise.

Typical situations that cause problems with employees are:

  • Increasing your employee's workload when another employee leaves, rather than finding a replacement.
  • Increasing an employee's workload because you've made other staff redundant to cut costs.

If you're going to increase an employee's workload, you should be ready for them to ask, "What's in it for me?"

And if you're hoping that your employee will just do more work for no extra pay or benefits, and not even a recognised promotion, you're likely to frustrate your employee.

And as we said earlier, their morale will drop. They will begin to resent you and feel like you're taking advantage of them. They'll end up doing less work. And they might begin their search for a new job. In this situation, they could even have a case for constructive dismissal—if they feel like they have no choice but to resign.

What are the causes of Employee Grievance?

Causes of Grievances:

The causes of employee grievances include:

(i) Demands for individual wage adjustments;

(ii) Complaints about the incentive system;

(iii) Complaints about the job classifications;

(iv) Complaints against a particular foreman;

(v) Complaints concerning disciplinary measures and procedures;

(vi) Objections to the general methods of supervision;

(vii) Loose calculation and interpretation of seniority rules, and unsatisfactory interpretation of agreements;

(viii) Promotions;

(ix) Disciplinary discharge or lay-off;

(x) Transfer for another department or another shift;

(xi) Inadequacy of safety and health services/devices;

(xii) Non-availability of materials in time;

(xiii) Violation of contracts relating to collective bargaining;

(xiv) Improper job assignment; and

(xv) Undesirable or unsatisfactory conditions of work.

What are the effective ways of handling Employee Grievance?

Here are five key actions to deal with a workplace grievance.

Initiate the grievance procedure

By law, every company should have a formal, written grievance procedure. This written procedure should tell employees whom to contact if they have an issue and should set out the steps of the process and the time limits for each stage.

In many instances, the first step of the procedure may involve an informal discussion to see if the issue can be easily solved. If it can’t, the employee will need to initiate the formal process by submitting a grievance in writing. 

Investigate the grievance

While not always necessary, you may need to take some time to investigate the complaint. In particular, if the issue involves other members of staff, they will need to be notified and given a chance to explain their positions or to give their own evidence. Once you’ve completed your investigations, you can arrange a grievance hearing. You’ll need to inform all relevant parties, so that they can make their own preparations. 

Hold a grievance hearing

The next key action is to hold the formal meeting where the employee will set out their grievance and provide any evidence to back up their case. All parties should attend this grievance hearing. Employees have the right to bring along a colleague or union representative. The employee should also be invited to explain how they would like their issue to be resolved and what outcome they are seeking. You should arrange for formal notes to be taken at this meeting, which you can then circulate to all parties afterwards. 

Make your decision and inform the employee

After the meeting, you will make your decision. You may decide to uphold the staff member’s grievance in full or in part, or you may reject it. If you uphold it, or parts of it, you need to identify the action that will be taken. Write to the employee, telling them what your decision is. Explain the reasons for your decision and advise them what actions you will take and what actions they should take. 

Further action

If the employee does not accept the decision, they have the right to an appeal. Again, your policy should outline the appeals process that will be followed when an employee wants to take the grievance further.

The employee should request in writing that their appeal will be heard and inform you what their grounds for appeal are. Where possible, to provide impartiality, the appeal should be heard by another manager or director, and one who was not involved in the first meeting. At the appeal hearing, you can examine the reasons for the appeal and any new evidence. Again, after the hearing, you should write to the employee, informing them of your decision and the reasons for it. If your employee still does not accept your decision, they can pursue mediation or make a claim to an employment tribunal. 

It’s never nice to have to deal with a workplace grievance. Whatever the cause, and wherever the blame may lie, at the minimum it means that someone within your company is unhappy. And that is not a productive situation in the workplace. Following these actions will help you to resolve the conflict and respond to any problems as quickly and simply as possible.

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