Personal grievance – two words likely to send shivers up the spines of most employers!
Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of an employer more than receiving a personal grievance letter from a current or ex-employee. Employers should firstly take a deep breath. Read the grievance letter as objectively and as calmly as you can. Be open to resolving the problem. Disengage from fight mode. And stay disengaged.
Here are some suggestions for employers who are dealing with a personal grievance in-house:
- Get legal advice immediately. You need to know the worst possible outcome before you start any negotiations.
- Do not enter in to a discussion with the employee before you speak to a lawyer.
- Treat the employee with respect. They will be feeling as nervous as you are. Employees are more likely to accept a solution you suggest when they are treated respectfully.
- Treat all complaints seriously even if they seem trivial to you; they are important to the employee.
- Thank the employee for bringing the to your notice. A bit of kindness and understanding never hurt any employer facing a personal grievance situation.
- Ask the employee what action by the employer would solve the problem. They may just want you to list en to them.
- Listen carefully to what the employee is saying. Don’t talk the employee. It’s rude and causes unnecessary tension.
- Be open to practical solutions. Do you want to be Right or do you want to be Happy? Happy outcomes beat being right every time.
- Take notes or record the Meeting. This will help the employee know you are taking the matter seriously. Don’t rely on your memory.
- Take time to investigate the complaint. Don’t make a decision immediately. Give yourself time to think about the situation and how it can be resolved amicably.
- Meet up again with the employee later to give them the results of your investigation. If necessary, allow them the courtesy of leave with pay while you undertake the investigation, especially around bullying, where the perpetrator could continue their behaviour against the employee.
- Some complaints have no merit or foundation. Explain that to the employee calmly and clearly and give them your reasons.
- Offer to arrange for mediation if the employee is still unhappy. MBlE mediators are competent and experienced in assisting parties to solve their employment issues at mediation.
- Keep cool and calm. There is always at least one solution that will suit both parties.
- Implement the solution immediately and regularly check in with the employee once the solution is in place.
Any employee may pursue a personal grievance if they have been:
- Unjustifiably dismissed
- Unjustifiably disadvantaged by the action of the employer
- Discriminated against
- Sexually harassed (by someone in authority or by co-workers)
- Racially harassed
- Suffered duress over membership of a union or other employee organisation
Must be raised in 90 days
The employee must raise the personal grievance within 90 days of the grievance occurring or of it coming to their attention.
Specify the personal grievance
The grievance should be specified sufficiently to allow the employer to be able to address it.
90 Day trial periods
Employees who have been given a notice of dismissal during a trial period are unable to raise a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal unless the grievance is about discrimination or harassment.
Out of time grievances
The employer may consent to a personal grievance being raised after the 90-day time frame, but if they don’t, the employee may apply to the Employment Relations Authority for a determination.