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Don’t let a grievance have a negative impact on the bottom line

Published 22 June 2020

Resolving an employee grievance amicably and quickly is always best and it can save valuable time and money.

Unresolved or protracted workplace conflict can have serious consequences for any business.

It can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction, impact on team morale, create inefficiency and increase absenteeism among employees.

In summary, an employer’s ability in handling employee grievances can have a direct and significant impact on overall productivity at work.

Grievances are a concern, complaint or problem raised by an employee with an employer. The formal complaint is usually submitted in writing and should be dealt with in accordance with an organisation’s grievance policy (1) .

The reason for an employee submitting a grievance can be wide and varied. It can relate to improper working conditions such as poor production standards, health and safety concerns, bad or unfair management or breach of an employer’s rules and practices.

Quickly identifying the cause of any grievance and addressing it appropriately can ensure an employee remains loyal, committed to their work and productive. Efficient grievance management is a vital part of personnel management

Going through the grievance process can be time consuming and if it does go wrong, costly.

Previous research by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, a European alternative dispute resolution body, estimated that at the time of the study all business conflicts were costing UK business around £33 billion per year and 370 million working days (2)

The cost of business disputes was said to comprise not only amounts paid in legal fees but also the damage incurred by business as a consequence of those disputes – in fact the reported cost of the damage (£27bn) far outweighed the legal fees (£6bn).

The study reported that 80 per cent of disputes had a significant impact on the smooth running of business.

Working to resolve any type of work-related dispute, including employee grievances can be a huge drain on management time.

But, rushing a process in order to avoid it having a negative workplace impact and knock on effect on productivity can lead to mistakes.

A hurried investigation may not be thorough and fair and key aspects of the case, evidence and documentation may get overlooked.

As explained, matters that can cause an employee to feel aggrieved and lead to them submitting a grievance are varied and can also include workplace discrimination.

Discrimination means treating a person unfairly because of who they are or because of a protected characteristic such as race, gender, age or a disability (3).

Currently there is no cap on the compensation that can be awarded in the event of an employee making a successful discrimination claim.

A bank worker recently won a record £4.7m disability pay-out from the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was found to have discriminated against her (4).

Where an investigation is required, it is advisable to invest time and effort in ensuring the investigation gets off on the right track and problems do not occur further along the line.

The ACAS Code of Practice advises that employers and employees should raise and deal with a grievance promptly and not unreasonably delay meetings, decisions or confirmation of those decisions (5).

The Code sets out the basic requirements of fairness that will be applicable in most cases; it provides the standard of reasonable behaviour for most cases.

The process for managing conflict to avoid it impacting on productivity  can include:

  • Shared responsibility with line managers, HR, employees, employee representatives and senior management committed to resolving matters of concern
  • An initial attempt to address and deal with a grievance informally when suitable to do so as it can prevent the matter from escalating.
  • Having clear and established procedures in place to deal with grievance and disciplinary matters should an informal approach prove unsuccessful. Such policies should be communicated to all staff.
  • Regular reviews and updating of conflict handling processes to ensure they are suitable, fair and efficient.


(1) What is a Grievance? [Internet] [Cited 22.06.2020]

(2) Previous research by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution [Internet] [Cited 22.06.2020]

(3) What is Discrimination? [Internet] [Cited 22.06.2020]

(4) Tribunal Award Record [Internet] [Cited 22.06.2020]

(5) Code of practice for disciplinary and Grievance procedure [Internet] [Cited 22.06.2020]

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For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611

A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 


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