When an employee raises a workplace grievance, you must take them seriously. Whether or not your employee's grievance is valid, it could be having a negative effect on them.
Their morale might have dropped. And because of this, their productivity levels might drop. And before long, your staff retention numbers fall as disgruntled staff leave the business.
An employee grievance is a concern, problem, or complaint that an employee has about their work, the workplace, or someone they work with—this includes management. Something has made them feel dissatisfied, and they believe it is unfair and/or unjust on them.
Types of grievances in the workplace
These are the most common examples of employee grievances.
- Pay and benefits.
- Work conditions.
Let's go through each one in a little more detail.
Pay and benefits grievances
As an employer, you've probably had at least one member of your staff come to you to express that they're unhappy with what you're paying them.
Your employee might mention:
- That they want a higher salary.
- They think they should be earning as much as somebody who does a similar job in the organisation.
- They might be trying to receive expenses—such as for their commute.
Make sure that you have a pay and benefits policy that outlines how often you will conduct salary and benefits reviews with your staff, and ensure that any documents your employees receive are in line with this policy.
It's inevitable that members of staff in your workplace just won't get on. But that doesn't mean you should allow bullying or harassment. You must have a zero tolerance policy.
Ensure that you give everyone your anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies, and always email any updates or revisions. These policies should include the disciplinary procedure you'll follow if somebody lodges a grievance for bullying or harassment.
Working conditions grievances
Nobody wants to lose a valuable employee because of problems with their workplace conditions. It's up to you to prevent this.
- Cleanliness on the office floors or in the kitchen.
- Desk etiquette.
- Bathroom conditions.
- Health and safety hazards.
- Temperatures in the workplace.
Conduct workplace risk assessments regularly to identify any possible hazards, such as a leak.
Have a first aid officer, a first aid kit, and signs designating fire exits.
Outfit your office with fire extinguishers. Other obvious essentials include refuse bins around obvious areas, such as a kitchen or canteen and near desks, too. Don't forget about toiletries: toilet paper and hand soap/sanitiser.
As part of your assessment, you could assess whether you should invest in air conditioning for the summer, or radiators if the office gets cold in the winter.
You can often find a link between grievances about their workload, and pay and benefits issues that staff raise.
Typical situations that cause problems with employees are:
- Increasing your employee's workload when another employee leaves, rather than finding a replacement.
- Increasing an employee's workload because you've made other staff redundant to cut costs.
If you're going to increase an employee's workload, you should be ready for them to ask, "What's in it for me?"
And if you're hoping that your employee will just do more work for no extra pay or benefits, and not even a recognised promotion, you're likely to frustrate your employee.
And as we said earlier, their morale will drop. They will begin to resent you and feel like you're taking advantage of them. They'll end up doing less work. And they might begin their search for a new job. In this situation, they could even have a case for constructive dismissal—if they feel like they have no choice but to resign.
Have an informal chat first
An employee grievance requires the employee to raise their issue with their employer.
Having an informal chat when they first come to you with their issue can sometimes be all you need to address what's bothering them.
But not always. In which case, your employee might opt to go further and raise a formal grievance.
If your employee decides to take their issue to an employment tribunal, the tribunal will reduce any compensation it awards the employee if the employee never raised a formal grievance.
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