How to handle an informal grievance effectively

A grievance is a concern, problem or complaint at work that an employee may want to take up with you, the employer. This is called raising a grievance. Examples of an employee’s grievance could be:

  • The way they are being treated at work (e.g. not being given a promotion they feel they deserve)
  • The terms and conditions of their employment contract (e.g. salary)
  • Another colleague is making hurtful remarks on an ongoing basis

Hopefully, your employee will feel comfortable enough to come and talk to you as their manager to discuss their concerns. This is known as an informal grievance. If this happens, here are some best practice steps to follow:

1. Prepare

  • Arrange a date and time for an informal meeting – preferably face to face
  • The date should be as soon as practicably possible
  • Choose a private location
  • When scheduling the meeting, allow enough time to cover the issues

2. Meet

  • Confirm to the employee that the meeting is informal
  • Advise that the purpose of the meeting is to support them in addressing their concerns

3. Explain and explore

  • Listen to the employee’s concerns without interrupting
  • Seek clarification, further information and examples as appropriate
  • Discuss the impact these concerns are having on them
  • Explore possible reasons or specific problems and how these issues could be addressed
  • Ask what your employee would like you to do to resolve the problem

4. Agree the outcome

  • Ask the employee if there is anything further they wish to say or whether they have any questions
  • Agree any follow up action and advise of both internal and external support available where appropriate
  • Advise that the key points from the meeting will be noted and sent to them for information
  • Where it has been agreed that informal action will be taken to resolve the concerns, arrange a follow meeting to review

5. Record

  • Record the summary of your discussions and share with the employee, ensuring that records are both factual and constructive.
  • File the summary on the employee’s file (if the informal grievance later ends up being formal, the record may be required as part of the formal process)

6. Review

  • Check with the employee that they feel their issue has been addressed
  • If they do not feel their issue has been fully addressed, explore what else could reasonably be considered to resolve any remaining concerns
  • If the employee feels that action taken has not resolved their issue, you must advise them of the formal grievance procedure
  • If they arise, address any new issues or concerns promptly
  • Set the next review meeting if appropriate

Many grievances can be resolved informally. However, if the employee wishes to raise a formal grievance, you will need to follow the procedure in your grievance policy. You may need to consider hiring external consultants to assist, especially if you run a small business with only a few employees, or if the grievance is complex.

If so, we can help. Our HR team have all the skills required to help you, including hearing the employee’s grievance, conducting thorough, robust investigation interviews, and producing an objective outcome report with recommendations.