How to Investigate a Workplace Grievance

By September 23, 2015HR Solutions
How to Investigate a Workplace Grievance | HR Solutions

The dictionary definition of a grievance is “an actual or supposed circumstance regarded as just cause for complaint”.

In the workplace this is any concern, problem or complaint that an employee raises with you. This could be about the conduct of a manager or colleague, about a third party such as a client or a customer or about the working environment itself. Whatever the cause of the employee’s complaint it is your duty as an employer to treat every grievance seriously.

If the employee’s direct manager is the subject of the grievance then they should raise it with another manager or with the business owner. It should be a priority for your management team to investigate the grievance and discover the facts.

Informal Grievances

An employee can raise a grievance informally, but it will help their case to take a formal approach from the beginning. Should they raise an informal complaint you should still investigate it. In the event of an informal grievance then a simple conversation with the employee may be enough to establish the cause of their issue and resolve it.

  • Jackie is annoyed that no-one else on her team does the washing up. She raises it informally in conversation with her manager who establishes that what she is saying is true. Her manager then implements a formal washing up rota for her department.
Formal Grievances

When an employee raises a formal grievance they should do so objectively and professionally and in writing. Should your employee raise a formal grievance then you will need to launch an investigation; likewise you will also need to investigate if an employee raises the grievance informally but in doing so they reveal a deeper issue such as bullying or harassment.

The Investigation

You must be careful to only discuss facts relating to the grievance during the investigation. You must also make sure that you do not form a judgement on the grievance before your investigation is complete.

  • Talk to all involved parties and obtain written statements regarding the complaint
  • Obtain all evidence relevant to the grievance
  • Be prepared for the unexpected – your investigation may uncover something that you did not anticipate

You may need to hold investigatory meetings to determine the facts surrounding the grievance. If you do, than it’s worth remembering that the employee that has raised the grievance does not have the statutory right of accompaniment to the investigatory meeting. This doesn’t mean that you have to deny them accompaniment if they request it, but you can also decline that request.

Following the investigation you should give a written copy of your findings to the employee that raised the grievance. Make sure you omit the names of any witnesses that have asked to remain anonymous as well as any confidential information.


We can help you to manage any workplace grievance. Contact us online or give us a call on 0844 324 5840 to find out more.

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