Grievance procedures

Introduction

As a line manager, you probably handle requests, queries and complaints from your staff on an informal basis every day as part of your managerial role. On occasion these may develop into grievances and in accordance with the provisions of the Employment Act 2002 the University's standard letters of appointment make reference to how application for the redress of a grievance should be made.

The guiding principle when dealing with any grievance is that it should be settled fairly and as near as possible to its point of origin through informal means wherever possible. To assist the timely and effective resolution of grievances the University has, through consultation with the appropriate university bodies, developed a number of grievance procedures applicable to particular staff groups in situations where either an individual employee, or a group of employees, has raised a grievance.

It is important for you as a manager to identify the nature of a grievance as early as possible and to select the most appropriate procedure by which to address it, in consultation with your HRBP in University HR, so as to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to resolve it effectively.

Departments are asked to refer to the procedures contained in the relevant staff handbook when discussing or using a particular grievance procedure with members of staff.

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The overall grievance procedure for all academic and academic-related staff is contained in Part F of Statute XII of the University's Statutes and Regulations. Please note that for the purposes of this procedure references to academic staff apply equally to members of academic-related staff. Procedures for dealing with grievances at departmental or divisional level may be downloaded from the Documents list at the right-hand side of this page. Advice relating to grievance issues concerning academic and academic-related members of staff should, in the first instance, be sought from the relevant HR Business Partner in University HR.

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The procedure for support staff grievances is set out in section 8.4 of the staff handbook for support staff.

The informal departmental stages are set out in section 8.4.1

The formal stages are set out in section 8.4.2

A diagrammatic overview can be downloaded from the right-hand side of this page.

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In most circumstances an employee who is aggrieved with a disciplinary action against them does not have access to the University's grievance procedures. Such employees may, of course, appeal against disciplinary decisions using the appropriate disciplinary procedure. The appeal stage of a disciplinary procedure provides the final decision; there can be no further appeal within the University's procedures.

However, where an employee complains that a decision to suspend them pending a disciplinary hearing or a disciplinary warning against them is tainted with discrimination on grounds of their age, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief or disability, the law requires that they are able to raise a grievance outside the disciplinary procedure.

Departments and divisions will in any case liaise closely with University HR throughout any disciplinary case and appropriate advice will be provided should it become necessary in the circumstances outlined above for an employee to be able to raise a grievance.

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Before a meeting takes place, the relevant manager, as defined in the grievance procedure, should gather all the necessary facts from records, or other sources. If it seems likely that the problem will involve some aspect of rules or policies within the department or the University, the manager should have all the relevant facts at their fingertips in advance of the meeting and have sought advice from the HR Business Partner in University HR, if appropriate.

The manager should ensure complete privacy and freedom from interruption and that adequate time will be available for the conduct of the meeting.

The employee has the right to be accompanied by a union representative or other colleague of their choice from within the University at each stage of the grievance procedure. Likewise, the relevant manager may wish to have an appropriate colleague with them (someone who is likely to be seen as impartial and knowledgeable and who can assist the objective assessment of the matter in hand).

At the start of the interview, the chairperson should clarify that the purpose of the meeting is to listen to the grievance as presented by the employee, or their representative, with a view to resolving it. It is good practice to ask the employee to present their grounds for grievance and to wait until they have finished setting out the problem before exploring any issues raised through appropriate questioning. It is helpful for such questioning to be objective, focused and probing and it may be especially useful, in the course of the meeting, to make use of the skills of summarising what the person has said, and reflecting back their key points. This demonstrates that the manager is listening, understands the points being raised and it should help to clarify the issues.

After the manager has listened to the grievance, they should supply, as objectively as possible, any pertinent facts of which the employee seems to be unaware. The manager may wish to summarise the problem as they see it and, if a solution has been arrived at, encourage the employee to summarise this for themselves.

The manager should remember not to promise anything which cannot be delivered and, if the grievance has not been resolved through discussion, they should clarify what further steps may be taken to resolve it. If action has been agreed the manager should make a note of it and assure the employee that it will be carried out as soon as practicable. It is normal for the outcome and a brief note of any follow up action to be confirmed in writing to the employee.

The manager should also consider carefully whether anybody else is likely to be affected by what has been presented at the meeting and what has been agreed with the employee. If so, the manager should, following appropriate advice if necessary, take whatever steps may be necessary to inform other people, with due regard to the confidentiality of the matter.

In some cases it will be necessary, after due consideration, for the manager to inform the employee that they believe the grievance is without foundation and that no action will be taken. Sometimes it may be sensible to adjourn the grievance interview pending discussions with other managers, or to seek further advice, or to carry out further investigations. This will also allow time for the employee to reflect on the discussions. While procrastination should be avoided, an adjournment may also help to demonstrate that the manager is considering carefully what has been presented rather than reaching a snap judgement on the matter.

Where a complaint has been made against another member of staff there is a natural tendency to try to treat the matter as confidentially as possible with the result that, sometimes, not even the person about whom the complaint has been made may be told. It is usually essential to acquire both sides of the story and in almost all circumstances it is far better to involve the other person once a complaint has been raised and management has given preliminary thought as to how to deal with it. In cases where harassment has been alleged, however, it is particularly important for advice to be sought, at an early stage, from University HR prior to bringing the respective parties together.

If a manager has been unable to resolve a grievance the employee may wish to pursue it further through the appropriate departmental grievance procedure and the same principles will apply at every stage. Ultimately, if a grievance is not resolved within the department it may be referred centrally by the individual as 'unresolved at departmental level' in accordance with the particular grievance procedure applicable.

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