How to Create an Employee Grievance Policy

In any company, there will be disagreements and conflicts between people. Sticking your head in the sand and pretending everything is perfect can exacerbate your employees’ discontent.

Beyond your typical shouting match, conflicts can lead to a host of other problems. From increased liability and negative publicity to lawsuits and additional audits, a workplace conflict can rob you of precious time and money.

If they feel like you’re not listening to them, your employees will likely go looking for someone else who will – other employees. Often, this can lead to increased gossip and decreased productivity. They may also file a lawsuit against your organization.

An employee grievance process provides your employees with a constructive way to voice their concerns so you can address the issues before they become more of a distraction in the workplace. Resolving any concerns also encourages a better culture in your office.

Follow these steps to create an effective employee grievance policy that you and your employees will appreciate.

1. Identify key points of contact

Not everyone in your company is qualified to handle employee-related issues. A point of contact needs to be in the appropriate leadership role or have the proper experience to address employee concerns.

You also have the option of creating a grievance committee, which would be made up of a group of people throughout the company. This committee would be in charge of dealing with all grievances that get reported.

Once you’ve assigned a point person or committee, make sure all of your employees know how to contact them. Include their contact information in your employee handbook or corporate guidelines.

2. Outline the steps employees should take prior to filing a grievance

Not all employee grievance processes are the same. What works for one business may not work for your business.

For example, you may ask your employees to directly address the other people involved before filing a grievance. If that doesn’t work, or if the employee isn’t comfortable doing that, then you might instruct your employees to contact their supervisor.

If the issue still can’t be resolved by talking to the individuals or their supervisor, then the employees should contact the appropriate point person or committee that you identified in step one.

Whatever your process is, be sure it’s documented and readily available to all of your employees.

3. Determine how to handle the filing of a grievance

Anytime a grievance is filed, you will need to investigate it, regardless of whether you think the concern is valid. The concerned parties should be addressed after every investigation, regardless of the results. The individuals who filed the grievance should be kept informed of the status of the investigation so they are aware it’s being handled and not ignored.

For example, after you’ve performed a thorough investigation, be sure to debrief employees who filed the grievance. Let them know that their concern was investigated, the resulting outcome, and any next steps needed.

While these may be difficult conversations, it’s essential that you address your employees’ concerns fairly and promptly. Ignoring these issues could upset your employees and cause them to question your loyalty.

4. Document the grievance policy and add it to your employee handbook

Including your grievance policy in the employee handbook is important so employees know what to do when they encounter an issue.

In addition, you should have all your employees sign an acknowledgement that they have received and read the policy.

Together, these documents can help your company defend itself should an employee file a regulatory charge or lawsuit.

5. Spread the word

Share your new grievance policy with your employees. Make sure everyone knows the correct steps and procedures for reporting a concern. A face-to-face meeting or discussion will show your employees that you believe in your grievance policy and allow for any questions or concerns to be addressed.

6. Follow through

Abandoning your policy after you’ve created it can hurt employee morale more than if you never had one at all.

Stick with it. Show your employees that you truly do want to hear from them.

Address all concerns that are brought to your attention, regardless of whether it’s a true issue or an employee who’s having a bad day.

7. Have a true open-door environment in your workplace

Your grievance policy will only be effective if your employees feel comfortable reporting issues they’re having.

If your employees are worried about retaliation, they may not raise concerns. Ultimately, this could result in an employee resignation or the filing of a regulatory charge or lawsuit against your organization over an issue that may have been easily resolved had you been aware of it.

Anonymous channels of communication such as hotlines or Web-based surveys are other options, but if your employees feel like they’re allowed to openly communicate at any time, they’ll likely feel better speaking up.

Perpetuate the open communication in an ongoing manner by having check-in conversations with employees. Don’t just wait for them to come to management and report concerns. By having ongoing communication, you will seem more approachable and employees will be more likely to bring concerns to light.

If an employee brings a concern to management, ensure they are thanked for sharing the feedback and make sure you follow through with a resolution to close out the concern. Even if it’s not something that needs to be addressed with another employee, you should discuss it with the concerned employee and partner to find a way to resolve the issue.

An employee grievance policy is just one of several HR best practices you can’t afford to overlook. Download our free e-book, 7 Most Frequent HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, to discover what else might be missing from your human resources strategy.