Dealing with Grievances Effectively and Appropriately

A grievance is an employee concern about their treatment by the school or a colleague(s), including bullying, harassment or discrimination. The right to raise a grievance and to have it dealt with properly is a fundamental employment right and managers should deal promptly with concerns and follow their procedures.

What is a grievance in school?

As a manager, when you become aware that an employee has a concern about their employment or treatment by others, ideally, you will deal with the problem by early intervention and informal discussion. This is the best way to avoid escalation and formal grievances.

Sometimes, however, you will not become aware until a grievance has been raised, or the informal approach will not resolve the problem.

When raising a grievance, employees need to explain the concerns they have in detail and indicate the resolution they are seeking. Please be mindful that while this should generally be in writing, some individual’s may not be able to approach it in this way, and any complaint might need to be dealt with as a grievance, even it is received verbally.

It is essential not to ignore grievances or delay addressing them as this will almost certainly exacerbate the complaint and ultimately result in an employment tribunal claim. The right to raise a grievance and to have it dealt with properly is a fundamental employment right.

Text grievance procedure on notepad with office tools

Grievance procedures

Despite managers’ best efforts, it is rare for all parties to be entirely satisfied with the outcome of a formal grievance.  For this reason, a good grievance process will always start with an attempt at informal resolution.  Mediation can sometimes be a helpful intervention.

A formal grievance will consist of an investigation into the concerns, getting the perspective of all relevant parties and then a formal, confidential meeting to allow the aggrieved to put their concerns.  The person hearing the grievance will then need to judge based on all of the evidence about whether or not the grievance is upheld and, if it is, any redress and next steps.  If the employee is dissatisfied with the outcome of their grievance, they have a legal right to appeal and have their grievance heard by a new panel, ensuring an independent and fair review of the case.

Grievances during other procedures

It is not unusual for an employee who is subject to a disciplinary, capability or other procedure to raise a grievance –  often related to their perceived treatment through the instigation or management of these procedures.  Policies will vary, but our view is that where the grievance is related to the procedure, it should be managed as part of that procedure and not as a separate grievance.  However, suppose the grievance is entirely unrelated or relates to the conduct of the person managing the procedure (e.g. that they are bullying or being discriminatory). In that case, it will probably be appropriate to deal with the issues concurrently, or in some cases, to suspend the other procedure until the grievance is dealt with.

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Where employees’ concerns span a period of time or escalate, they may become stressed and take time off sick.  This can lead to a ‘chicken and egg’ situation where they cannot face the grievance process and cannot get well until it is resolved.  It is essential to maintain contact with the individual and follow routine sickness absence procedures, but also to seek to resolve the grievance and get them back to work as quickly as possible. Explore ways of managing the process that minimises their stress.  For example, you will hopefully be able to investigate aspects of the grievance without speaking with them if their grievance was detailed and informative. You may be able to work through their chosen representative or manage the process through correspondence.

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