Take a moment to think about your current workplace. If you had a complaint, big or small, would you know who to go to, to report it? And, having reported it, how confident are you that that complaint would be handled quickly and efficiently, and a satisfactory outcome reached?
Unfortunately, all too often, we are called in to undertake workplace investigations that could have been entirely avoided if the organisation had a clear workplace grievance and dispute handling procedure that all staff could confidently follow.
A workplace grievance is any complaint an employee has about their workplace. This can be in regard to:
- bullying, discrimination or harassment complaints
- conflict between an employee and a colleague
- issues of professional practice or the allocation of resources
- legitimate concerns over duties an employee has been directed to perform
- a dispute over conditions of their employment (e.g. approval of leave, rostering)
- any WHS concerns
- a breach of policies that have been reported appropriately, but not addressed
It is especially important that all staff members are aware of the process for lodging a grievance, and also for having that grievance handled and resolved.
A large and often overlooked component of a grievance policy is ensuring all staff are clear about who to report a complaint to, as some grey area can exist when team leaders or managers are a part of the complaint. That is, it may go without saying that if you have a conflict or grievance with a fellow employee, you can easily report it to your mutual upline manager. But does your organisation clearly set out who to report to if your upline manager is the person you have a grievance with?
Following an investigation of this nature, we almost always recommend an organisation update their grievance policy to include clear, absolute instructions on who to report to, as in the following example:
The second part of the puzzle is ensuring that staff know precisely how a grievance will be handled. This usually necessitates a clear-cut and graduated procedure for handling complaints, starting with an informal resolution process, through to a formal resolution process.
The benefits of having these processes clearly set out are twofold: the employee submitting the complaint is aware of the process to be undertaking, and staff handling the complaint know which steps need to be taken at which stages. Additionally, any investigations required will be made easier and more efficient, and risks are mitigated within the company.
If your organisation needs to update their grievance policy and are unsure where to start, our experienced team can assist.