HR and Grievance Processes

people Nov 20, 2017

Debbie Silvester - Director - Eckington HR

With Westminster reeling from the current wave of sexual harassment allegations and the devastating consequences that the allegations have on both the alleged victims and the alleged harasser our thoughts must surely be with the families of all those concerned.

However, as an HR professional for the last 20 plus years, I was shocked at the revelation that Parliament doesn’t have an HR department! Under the Employment Rights Act all employees should have access to a grievance and disciplinary policy. So my introductory blog must be on grievances.


What is a Grievance?

A grievance is defined as “a real or imagined cause for complaint, especially unfair treatment”

The fact that the grievance could be imagined is the very reason why it must be investigated fairly and thoroughly. However, thought must be given as to how to go about this.

In my experience, it is usually better for these to be discussed on an informal basis. Ideally coming to an agreement as to how to move forward without having to go down a more formal route.  

Depending on the size of the company that you work in, it may be easy to move somebody from one department to another to try to alleviate the friction or the issues that have contributed to the complaint. However, most of us work in small companies and therefore a move is sometimes impossible to achieve. 

I have found that it is much easier to ‘build bridges’ and continue working together if some form of mediation or informal discussion has taken place.  Clearly this isn’t always the case, and sometimes there are complaints that need to be taken much more seriously.


If an investigation is required

Therefore it is important, for both parties, that a full and thorough investigation takes place. The first step will be to refer to your company grievance policy. A meeting should take place once a formal letter has been received and any informal processes have been exhausted.  

The aim of this meeting should be to find out any more details about the complaint:

  • Any witnesses
  • Particular examples
  • How the person felt
  • The impact on their working life
  • What they are expecting (hoping) to get from the investigation.

Once an investigation has been carried out – making sure that you’ve followed your policies correctly – further meetings then need to be carried out with both parties. 

You will be telling the person who made the complaint what action, if any, you will be taking. It could be for example:

  • No action
  • A training course
  • Recommending formal disciplinary action 
  • Mediation
  • Improvement or clarification of relevant policies or procedures

The individual who raised the complaint then has the right to appeal the decision if they are not happy with the outcome. The person who the complaint was made against will also need to be advised of the decision and what action if any will be taken. They will not have the right of appeal.  

If the action advised is for formal disciplinary action, then this will then need to take place. This will be a separate investigation, although the grievance will feed into the disciplinary investigation. At the end of that process, they will then have the right to appeal.


Then comes the hard work

Getting on with normal day to day work, depending on the size and structure of the company, this will have its own degrees of difficulty. Building those bridges is much harder once things have gone formal.


If you find yourself in this situation and you would like some assistance, or even just want a grievance policy, please do contact me.  

Debbie Silvester - Director - Eckington HR

Eckington HR is an independent outsourced HR consultancy covering the whole of Sussex, founded by Debbie Silvester in 2011. 

Having worked in the HR department at Legal & General since 1996 and as Eckington HR since 2011, Debbie is able to bring both corporate and small business HR experience to your company. Working mainly on an ad-hoc or fixed fee basis you are not tied into a monthly contract, making Eckington HR a flexible solution for you.

If you would like support and advice, please contact Debbie Silvester on 0784 7549790 / 01323 453255 

or drop me an email at [email protected]


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