How to handle employee incidents and grievances

Date: Monday, 1st April, 2019

When incidents occur that affect the well being of employees or undermine the company culture, it is important to address them in a way that is effective and legal. Far too often, employee incidents and grievances are swept under the carpet just with the explanation that the issue is “under investigation.” Since incidents that have not been handled correctly have the potential to detract from employee satisfaction, cause high turnover and legal troubles, it is sensible to follow the actions below to make sure problems are dealt with correctly.

Address complaints

It is always a good course of action to address any employee complaints; sitting down and listening to their grievances or description of how an incident occurred is an important first step. Far too often, employees’ complaints are brushed off or even mocked, which can make employees feel under valued and can cause dissatisfaction in the workplace. If it makes more sense, allowing employees to report incidents or grievances using messaging or the telephone may be helpful.

Document, document, document!

Having a written record of when an incident occurred and having all relevant information can be helpful in an investigation. Make sure that all the individuals involved, including employees, customers, and even bystanders, are interviewed and statements taken. If disciplinary action is required or if accident reports are relevant, these should be filled out and notations made on all documentation detailing the actions that have been taken.

Perform an investigation

Investigations may differ depending on the type of incident, but an unbiased investigator should always be the one in charge. Bringing in a third party to investigate, such as an outsourced HR company is always a good idea and can save much hassle further down the line.

Performing an investigation can help to ensure that an incident occurred the way it was reported, but can also help to identify issues that can be changed to prevent future incidents and complaints.

Take action to make changes

Taking decisive action is important and shows employees that a company is serious about resolving issues. However, actions taken may widely vary and not everyone is going to agree with the actions taken in any given situation.

If a grievance stems from harassment, for example, instituting training to identify and discourage harassment may be helpful. If a grievance stems from theft, implementing cameras may work to prevent future problems.

Keep everything confidential

Talking too much about an incident, especially with individuals not affected by it can be damaging to an investigation and can even result in legal action. Employees that could have been helpful to an investigation may clam up after being forewarned about what is going on. If a person has been accused of something and finds out because of a rumour, the individual may also have grounds for a libel case.

Use disciplinary tools wisely

In many cases, employers are tempted to immediately dismiss anyone accused of wrongdoing, but this may be the wrong approach. If someone made an honest mistake that had affected others unfavourably, coaching may be more helpful and change the situation rather than dismissal. If employees have been engaged in violence, predatory behaviour, or theft, dismissal is appropriate after the incident has been investigated adequately.

We know that dealing with an employee grievance can be daunting if you don’t know how to handle the situation correctly. However, HR Revolution are here to help you every step of the way, from the initial advice through to running the entire process for you.  So if you don’t know where to start why not give us a call.

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