A grievance procedure explains what an employee must do if they wish to raise a formal complaint about any aspect of their employment and how the employer will address that complaint. This grievance procedure reflects the key requirements of the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
What is a Grievance Procedure?
A grievance procedure explains what an employee must do if they wish to raise a formal complaint about any aspect of their employment and how the employer will address that complaint. A grievance procedure must comply with certain minimum standards, which are set out in the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
Why is a Grievance Procedure important?
An employer has an implied duty to address grievances and to do so promptly. A failure to do so could result in an employee bringing a constructive unfair dismissal claim.
Where an employer unreasonably fails to follow the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, any compensation awarded to an employee in an Employment Tribunal may be increased by up to 25%, therefore having (and following) a legally compliant grievance procedure will reduce or eliminate this risk.
In addition, employees and workers have the right to be accompanied at grievance hearings by a fellow worker or a trade union representative. Staff should be informed of this right.
Finally, employers have a duty under s1 Employment Rights Act 1996 to give the employee a written statement at the start of the employment setting out the key terms of their employment. Usually the employer does this by providing an employment contract. It must include the name of the person to whom (and the manner in which) the employee should address any grievances.
What are the common pitfalls of a Grievance Procedure?
- Not having a Grievance Procedure
Without a grievance procedure, the company may not be complying with section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which could lead to financial penalties in the Employment Tribunal. It may also then not be following the legal requirements of the Acas Code when a grievance is raised, leading to potential compensation being awarded to the employee in an Employment Tribunal.
- Having a contractual Grievance Procedure
The employment contract contains the terms and conditions that govern an employee’s employment. Generally, changes cannot be made to it without the consent of both parties.
Normally an employer will want to make changes to its policies and procedures regularly, and in certain situations may not want to be tied to following them to the letter. For these reasons, it is usually advisable for the grievance procedure to be non-contractual, so that it does not form part of the employment contract and changes can be made. Otherwise, it will need to obtain staff agreement to any changes, however small.
The grievance procedure should therefore clearly state that it is not contractual i.e. that it does not form part of the employment contract.
- Including too much legalese and detail
The best grievance procedures are clear, concise and easy to navigate and understand. Procedures that are long, unwieldy and full of jargon are unlikely to be used or understood.
- Not giving employees a copy of the Grievance Procedure
The grievance procedure should ideally be given to the employee on the first day of employment, and it should be stored in a readily accessible location (e.g. the company intranet). Employees should also be informed when the grievance procedure has been updated.
- Not keeping the Grievance Procedure up to date
Employment law in the UK changes frequently. Using a PocketLaw template, and regularly reviewing the finished procedure, ensures that an employer remains legally compliant when changes to the law happen.
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