A Grievance Letter From My Wife
A GRIEVANCE LETTER FROM MY WIFE
Nick reviews a semi-hypothetical grievance letter from his wife and considers what should be included in a grievance letter and how each part should be dealt with.
Who should the grievance be addressed to?
“Dear Mr and Mrs Evans
I am writing to raise a grievance in relation to your son, Nick. There are a number of concerns that I want to raise and I ask that these are investigated in accordance with the Evans Company grievance procedure.”
If you are an employee and you are thinking of submitting a grievance, it is important to ask for a copy of the Company’s grievance procedure. Within this, you will be able to find information on the process you need to follow to submit a grievance, including who the grievance should be submitted to. A company grievance procedure may state that grievances should be submitted to your line manager or may state that they should be submitted directly to HR. Mr and Mrs Evans (my parents) are my line managers (of sorts).
If you are an employer, it is important that you have an up to date grievance policy in your employee handbook. This will ensure that both you and your employees know what to do if a grievance is raised and that it is dealt with in the correct way. Dealing with a grievance in the wrong way or not dealing with it at all could lead to the risk of a constructive dismissal claim.
Should the grievance be raised formally or informally?
“I have tried to raise the issues informally, directly with Nick, but have been unable to resolve them. Nick has also received extensive training on these issues but has not responded to the training as I would have hoped.”
Most grievance procedures will state that the grievance should be raised informally in the first instance unless that is not appropriate. Raising an issue informally may involve speaking to the person causing the issues and asking them to stop doing what they are doing. Here, my wife has tried to speak to me about the ongoing issues but talking to me has not worked. She has therefore submitted a formal grievance.
If it would be too uncomfortable to raise the issues with the person directly, the issue could be mentioned to a manager or HR without submitting a formal grievance letter. The manager or HR may then be able to stop the issue and no further action would be required. If this did not have the desired effect, the issue could then still be raised formally.
If the grievance issue is quite serious or is about a line manager, it may not be appropriate to raise the issue informally and an employee may go straight into the formal grievance procedure.
As an employee it is important to think about whether the issue can be raised informally as this is likely to maintain relationships between colleagues and could resolve the issue without going through a full, time consuming formal process. As an employer, whilst the grievance procedure may encourage informal action before submitting a grievance, it is still important to deal with any grievance that comes in.
Evidence and grievance investigations
“The first issue relates to the positioning of the toilet roll in the bathroom. Instead of having the toilet roll coming over the top, Nick repeatedly has the toilet roll coming from the back against the wall. This is a breach of the Evans Company procedure. Should it be required, I am able to provide evidence of this by way of photographs and more information on dates.”
Once an employee submits a grievance, it is important that the employer follows their grievance procedure. This will include carrying out a full investigation of the issues. The first step in this process will be to meet with the employee and ask them to elaborate on the issues in the letter or, if the information is detailed, to clarify the issues ahead of carrying out the investigation. To be able to fully investigate the points raised, it is important to get details like dates, times and locations. It is also important to find out if the person raising the grievance has any other evidence of the issues that can be considered as part of the investigation.
As an employee raising the grievance, you do not have to submit a full evidence file in the initial grievance letter but it is useful to set out that you do have more information and can provide evidence as required. Here, my wife has helpfully set out that she can provide the dates of the incidents and that she does have further evidence.
Whistleblowing and grievances
“The second issue is that he continually leaves socks on the floor. These are a potential trip hazard and, therefore, a health and safety issue. There is a designated place for the socks and Nick continues to fail to put them in this designated basket.”
As an employer it is important to look out for issues in a grievance letter that may also amount to a whistleblowing allegation. Whistleblowing is the disclosure of information which relates to suspected wrongdoing or dangers at work. When someone blows the whistle, they are in a protected position and should not suffer detriment or be dismissed because of the issue they have raised. Alerting an employer to a danger to health and safety is the sort of issue that could fall under the definition of whistleblowing. As an employer, dismissing an employee for something else could lead to an implication that the real reason was the whistleblowing allegation. It is therefore important that it is properly dealt with and investigated to show that such things are taken seriously by the company.
An employee with under 2 years’ service does not have the automatic right to bring an unfair dismissal claim. However, they can bring a claim if the reason for the dismissal was the protected disclosure they made. When dismissing someone with less than 2 years’ service, it is always important to think about issues they may have raised and it won’t always be as obvious as health and safety in a grievance letter.
Historic grievance issues
“The final issue is that Nick used a word in front of my family that my family consider to be a pretty serious swear word. Nick does not believe that this word is a swear word at all but it definitely is. Whilst this was likely a misunderstanding it was unprofessional conduct and I would like this investigated. This happened around 7 years ago but I cannot remember the exact dates.”
Employees often raise an issue in a grievance (particularly when the grievance contains a list of issues) that is an old issue. As an employer, it is important to still try and deal with the issue but it is also acceptable that the outcome or findings are less conclusive. If witnesses have left the business or CCTV has long been deleted, it may be that the finding is that the company cannot find sufficient evidence to uphold the allegation.
As an employee, it can weaken a grievance to throw in old issues. If there are a number of recent issues that you want to be investigated, focus on these. If there is a reason why the historic issue was not raised before, set that out in the letter to explain why there has been such a delay. It is always better to raise issues early so that a proper investigation can be carried out and the issues can be dealt with.
What do you want out of the grievance?
“I ask that these issues are all investigated in accordance with the grievance procedure. With regard to an outcome, I am happy to carry on working with Nick but I would like an apology and reassurances that these issues will not happen again.”
As an employee it is important to set out what you want out of the grievance being raised. Are you happy to carry on working with the person you may be complaining about? Do you want to be moved to another department? Do you want back-pay for an underpayment? Do you need a new office chair due to a bad back? Make it clear what you want so that your employer can make the response relevant. If you don’t make clear what you want, you may not be satisfied with the outcome even if the points you raise are upheld.
As an employer, focus on the outcome in your response. If the request is impossible, explain clearly in the response why it cannot happen and offer solutions. A grievance has been raised because an employee is not happy about something. If they remain unhappy, you may need to think about other options, such as offering them a settlement agreement (although always take advice before taking such steps). Depending on the allegations raised, you may need to take disciplinary action against an employee and someone saying they don’t want you to take disciplinary action should not be the only consideration.
Grievance sign off and next steps
“I look forward to hearing from you regarding the next steps for investigating these issues.
As an employer, it is important to acknowledge receipt of the grievance and make clear what the next steps will be. This is likely to be an invitation to a grievance hearing. As an employee, you will likely hear from your employer within a week. If not, you should chase and ask what the next steps will be. We have prepared a guide to the grievance process which can be found here.
I am probably going to get called in for an investigation hearing. Anyone know a good lawyer?