Dealing with a rise in grievances among SMEs

Friday October 21, 2022

Grievances can stem from various problems. However, since the pandemic, there are a few issues that are coming to light more than before – so it’s important to recognise a grievance and understand how you can best handle them as an SME.

What is a grievance?

A grievance is any real or perceived concern, problem, or complaint that an employee has at work. Any grievance must be taken seriously and dealt with in an appropriate way.

Why are grievances rising?

Ways of working have shifted since the pandemic. Staff may have let their complaints go when they were working remotely, as they did not have to face them daily. However, with many people now spending more time in the office, an old issue could be rearing its ugly head again.

Remote working may have distanced your staff from the company culture, and they might not feel as involved as they did before, especially if they feel there is a lack of communication. With people working in different locations, employees may not have been communicating clearly with each other regarding work, workloads, and just general conversations.

Mental health can also factor into workplace grievances. If someone is struggling, they could be taking their frustrations out on colleagues which, in turn, could lead one of your team to raise a grievance about their working conditions.

How can you deal with grievances?

When dealing with grievances, it is important that you understand why the issue has been raised and take all aspects into consideration. Having a grievance policy and procedure is extremely helpful as it gives you a clear framework in which to operate.

Remember that your employee may feel worried about raising an issue with their manager; so, establishing if you can deal with it in an informal manner can reassure them and speed the process up. Initially have a chat to explore exactly what their concern is and agree a way forward together.

This is helpful in cases where two co-workers may be clashing, or if someone is struggling with their workload.

Even though it is an informal approach, it’s imperative to follow your grievance procedure and keep everything well-documented.

Some grievances are more serious, or an employee may wish to follow the formal route by putting the complaint in writing.

A grievance procedure could look like this:

  • Invite the employee to a meeting to find out more about their complaint. They may not have provided full detail in their written version. It should be noted that employees have a statutory right to be accompanied at grievance meetings.
  • Be clear and explain the process that will take place, including how they will be informed of the outcome.
  • Where necessary, an investigation should be carried out with statements taken from witnesses.
  • If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome, they may appeal the decision.

At every stage of the grievance procedure, ensure you are recording all meetings. Failing to do so could cause issues if the grievance escalates to a tribunal.

A cultural reset could be key

Cultivating an open and honest culture will help your employees feel comfortable coming to you with any issues they may be experiencing, especially if you are seen to be dealing with them in a healthy and proactive manner.

If your employees are holding their grievances back, perhaps re-evaluate the office culture and try to alleviate any potential issues before they appear. If your business can, consider introducing things like flexible working or letting your staff work remotely on certain days. If you have the budget available, maybe look at your benefits packages and see if there is anything you can do to help. Prevention is, sometimes, better than cure.

If you need an extra pair of hands…

Feeling like you may have people problems? The HR Dept can guide you to making sure you have a comprehensive grievance and disciplinary policy and procedure. We can even carry out investigations and be there in person to help manage meetings if desired.

Preventing People Problems

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