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 Are you grieving over workplace grievances?

 Are you grieving over workplace grievances?

Workplace grievances will arise at some point and it is how you manage them that will make all the difference. Whatever the situation, as an employer, it is your responsibility to respond promptly, appropriately and fairly. Failure to take appropriate action can have significant
consequences on productivity, culture and, in some instances, your reputation.

Workplace grievance.

Workplace grievances take many forms. They will not always be black and white, and certainly will not always be made in writing, titled ‘workplace grievance’. As an employer, you need to remain alert to what is going on in your workplace, as grievances can take many forms including harassment (including sexual), bullying and micro-management amongst others.

It is imperative all grievances are handled in a fair and transparent manner.

From the outset – grievance policy.

As a starting point, we highly recommended all employers maintain a current policy on workplace grievances, identifying the procedure for airing a grievance and the process that will follow. By doing so, you are providing a fair and formal process for employees to raise concerns relating to their work, working conditions or relationships with colleagues. Such policies also provide a means by which an attempt can be made at resolution between the parties involved.

Initial steps – informal resolution.

In the event a complaint is made by an employee, the initial step is to attempt to resolve the complaint informally.

Informal resolution may include internal mediation, internal conciliation, or discussions facilitated by an independent manager.

Whether the complaint can be dealt with informally may depend on the nature of it, as some might be more serious and therefore warrant a formal investigation (eg complaints and allegations of serious misconduct, sexual harassment and/or discrimination).

Where a complaint cannot be resolved informally, a formal grievance procedure must be initiated.

Formal investigation.

Formal grievance procedures need to involve a thorough investigation to determine whether it can be substantiated. Investigations need to be prompt and thorough as any delay may hinder the investigation or even suggest the complaint was not taken seriously. Some appropriate steps to take are identified below.

  1.  Interview the complainant.At the commencement of the formal process, an employer should interview the complainant and make every effort to obtain as much detail as possible. During the interview, the process should be confirmed and the complainant informed that the grievance will be formally investigated, and this may include interviewing all persons involved, including possible witnesses.
  2.  Interview with alleged offender.All employers must ensure this process is conducted in a procedurally fair manner and involves sharing the allegation with the proposed offender. This person must be afforded the opportunity to respond, either by denying the allegations, or explaining any mitigating circumstances. If the allegations are denied, they should be informed about the investigation process that will follow.
  3.  Obtain other facts.The employer should endeavour to obtain any other relevant facts concerning the complaint and may involve interviewing witnesses, or even examining evidence such as emails or CCTV footage, if available.
  4.  Maintain confidentiality of the process.It is imperative that throughout the process, all parties are instructed to treat the matter as confidential and advised not to discuss it with other colleagues.

Making a decision.

As the employer, it is important not to make a decision in relation to the complaint prior to obtaining all the relevant and reasonable information. Once all the information has been obtained and disseminated, a decision based on those facts can be made. Throughout the investigation process, appropriate records should be collated so that the decision is substantiated.

Outcome.

If the grievance is substantiated and it concerns the behaviour of an employee, appropriate disciplinary action needs to take place. Once again, it is important that this disciplinary approach is fair, relevant to the misconduct and in accordance with disciplinary or performance management policies.

Both the complainant and the offender need to be informed of the employer’s decision and any proposed course of action.

Managing grievances in the workplace can be tricky. If you are unsure of your obligations as an employer, contact Employsure on 1300 651 415 for specialist advice.

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