Grievance & disciplinary procedures are processes that followed when a business investigates a problem with an employee. A grievance may be investigated if an employee has a problem with their employer or a colleague.
In both cases, there are statutory guidelines laid down by the UK government about workers rights during the process. But a company’s procedure may have extra steps in addition to the official guidelines.
Before Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures Begin
In both disciplinary and grievance procedures, it’s wise to try to deal with the problem informally first.
No one enjoys going through these processes. If a problem can be sorted out by some communication between the people involved, so much the better.
It doesn’t make sense for an employer to engage in a disciplinary procedure for something that could be resolved informally. For example, if someone was prone to lateness. This could be resolved by simply having a quiet word first to see if they can improve punctuality.
It is also necessary to follow grievance and disciplinary procedures to the letter. Everyone involved should be mindful that the situation may not be not resolved and could go to an Employment Tribunal.
It will not look good to the tribunal if disciplinary or grievance procedures weren’t followed by the business.
This is because the procedures are seen as ways of resolving situations. The courts will expect employers to use all means possible to settle a dispute before resorting to legal action.
What Are Disciplinary Procedures?
All businesses in the UK, regardless of size, must have a formally laid down procedure for resolving grievances and disciplinaries.
As a minimum the procedure should cover giving employees written statements about grounds for disciplinary action, followed by a meeting to discuss it.
As part of their workers’ rights, employees are allowed to be accompanied by another employee or a union representative. This is the case for the first meeting and any other meetings during the process. There are time deadlines imposed for each.
Employees are allowed to appeal against any decisions taken by employers after the process. If they are not satisfied after that appeal they may take to case to an employment tribunal.
Many businesses have procedures that are more involved than those described above, this is just the minimum required by law.
Employers must produce disciplinary procedure documentation and make it available to employees.
The ACAS Code of practise gives suggested best practise to deal with disciplinaries and grievances. It is not mandatory for businesses to follow the procedures. However, if they don’t then a tribunal can reduce or increase money awarded by 25% if the code hasn’t been followed.
What Happens with Grievance Procedures?
Grievance procedures are similar to disciplinary procedures. The legal minimum is a three-step procedure; a written statement, a meeting, and an appeal meeting, if necessary.
The written statement should be produced by the employee who has the grievance. It should be given to the person indicated in the procedure.
If past written statements have not been acted upon (there are time limits for this), or the person that the employee has the problem with is the person who should accept the statement, then it should be passed to HR, or failing that, the owner of the business.
Being Accompanied at a Grievance Meeting
As with disciplinary meetings, an employee is allowed to be accompanied by either another member of staff or a union representative. They may take notes during the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting is to establish exactly what has happened and, hopefully, get agreement on those facts.
Then the employee should detail what it has meant to them and why they have a grievance about the situation. Finally, an agreement will be arrived at as to how the problem can be resolved.
If the employee is not happy about the outcome of the meeting they have a right of appeal.
At the appeal, which would follow much the same format of the previous meeting, the employee can outline their reasons for disagreeing with the decisions taken at the first meeting.
What Can You Do if the Dispute is Left Unresolved?
With both disciplinary and grievance procedures if an agreement still can’t be reached after the appeal process, then the next step will have to be taking the dispute to mediation, conciliation, arbitration or an employment tribunal.
Seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), details of which can be found online or in telephone directories.