How to Conduct a Grievance Investigation

A key step in a grievance process will be the need to conduct an investigation and, in this post, we’ll explore frequently asked questions on conducting a grievance investigation.

Published Categorised as HR Best Practice, Managing Grievances
How to Conduct a Grievance Investigation - LighterHR
How to Conduct a Grievance Investigation - LighterHR

1. How Do I Know if I Need to Do an Investigation for an Employee Grievance?

Not every grievance requires an investigation.

Sometimes, the issue that an employee is raising relates to something that no one else is involved with. In this scenario, there really isn’t anything to investigate. However, sometimes the issue that someone is complaining about does involve others. Perhaps they are unhappy about the treatment they have received from a particular person. Or maybe there are concerns about an unsafe working practice.

If the grievance involves other employees, then it’s likely that there will be a need to conduct an investigation. The investigation will enable you to ascertain additional facts, speak with potential witness and hear other sides of the story.

2. When Should You Conduct a Grievance Investigation?

The timing of the investigation is important.

With an employee grievance, you conduct any investigation AFTER you’ve had the grievance hearing.

This is because the hearing will allow you to fully explore the grievance with the individual. This will help you to ascertain the facts that you need to investigate.

3. Who Should Conduct a Grievance Investigation?

Who is involved in an investigation is a key difference between a disciplinary and a grievance process. 

With a disciplinary, you look to have a different individual undertake the investigation to the individual who will be conducting the disciplinary hearing. With a grievance, this split often does not make sense. 

When dealing with a grievance, the individual conducting the hearing will have sat with the employee and understood the issues. They will therefore have insight into the case and the nature of the investigation that is required.  It often makes most sense for that same person to therefore speak with potential witnesses and undertake the investigation. 

This aligns to the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievances at Work.

Be mindful of whether there would be any issues with the manager who is conducting the hearing also conducting the investigation.  As an example, if the manager has a particularly poor relationship with one of the potential witnesses, it may be better for someone else to conduct that meeting.

4. How Should You Structure a Grievance Investigation?

We suggest that you create a document that sets out the scope of investigation.

A good approach can be to create a simple table that sets out the issues that the individual is complaining about. You can set out what questions you have about the issues and how you could get answers to those questions.

Taking this structured approach means that you miss nothing.

You can and should ask the employee who has raised the grievance whether there is anyone they would like you to speak with as part of the investigation.

When you’ve decided on who you need to speak with, you need to invite each person to a meeting.

With investigation meetings there you should give reasonable notice of the meeting to individuals. Individuals (other than the person raising the grievance) do not have a legal right to be accompanied at an investigation meeting. Having said that, you should check your grievance policy as it’s possible that your policy does state that people can be accompanied at investigatory meetings and if it does then it is important that you allow this.

During the meeting, you’ll pose questions to the individual and give them the opportunity to respond to those questions. They will also be able to share any other information they have which they feel is relevant.

You’ll take notes and then provide those notes to the individual who has participated in the meeting so that they can confirm they are accurate.

5. What Happens if People Don’t Want to Participate in the Grievance Investigation?

Situations do arise when you ask someone to participate in an investigation regarding a grievance and they state that they would rather not participate.

If the individual is an employee, then you can tell them that refusing to participate could result in a disciplinary case but this is quite extreme.

Typically, we suggest spending some time with any reluctant witness to understand why they do not wish to participate. You should explore whether anything can be done to make them more comfortable.

It could be that someone does not want to attend a meeting but is willing to provide a written statement and this is an option.

We really don’t recommend threatening someone with disciplinary action unless you feel they are being deliberately obstructive.

6. What About Confidentiality?

When leading a grievance investigation, you may encounter a situation where someone tells you they are only happy to give a statement if they can remain anonymous. This can be difficult to manage. You might need to use their evidence, but if they’re not prepared to be named, this may be a challenge.

If someone requests anonymity, then understand what it is that they are concerned about and consider whether there is a way for their identity to remain undisclosed.

You should be clear with anyone participating in the process how their statement will be used and who it will be shared with. You should also get consent from them for their statement to be used in this way.

7. Does an Investigation Only Require Taking Statements From People?

No. Your investigation may also require you to seek documentation, emails, review CCTV footage, and any other relevant information or data points.

8. What Do I Do With the Information I Gather for the Grievance?

Once you have completed your investigation you should write a report which pulls together the information that you have gathered.

In the report you should set out the scope of the investigation and your key findings.

This report will then start to form the basis of the outcome letter that you send to the employee who has raised the grievance.

Want to Know More?

It is very important to conduct grievance investigations thoroughly, following the correct process.

If you’d like any guidance on investigation of a grievance, give us a call on 0203 146 8770 or contact us using the contact form.

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