24 05 2024 Insights Employment Law

Top Tips for Dealing with Workplace Grievances

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Grievances arise naturally in the workplace when people work together. These can relate to issues with pay and conditions, other employees and misunderstandings. It is important to foster a healthy workplace environment that encourages good communication, openness, and, where issues arise a willingness to co-operate, listen and work towards an amicable resolution in the best interests of everybody involved.

A good grievance policy should allow for the quick resolution of grievances and ensure minimal disruption to the workplace. However, sometimes, grievances are purposefully raised as a defence or to deflect the focus and stifle investigations from progressing under other polices. Below we have set out some practical tips for dealing with grievance in a timely, transparent and fair manner.


  1. Follow the policy: Read the wording carefully and do not deviate from the policy.
    S.I. No. 146 2000 Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedure sets out what should be included in a grievance process. The Code suggests it is good practice for a grievance procedure to have a number of escalating stages in the process. This should progress from the informal complaint level, to the 1st stage involving management, a 2nd stage involving more senior management, and finally, to the appeal stage.

    It is important that the grievance policy and its procedures are applied uniformly. Any failure to deal with complaints in a uniform manner can lead to further allegations of unfairness and discrimination against an employer.
  2. Scope of the policy: A grievance policy should clearly set out the scope of the policy and who it applies to. Usually former employees and members of the public cannot make complaints under the grievance policy. Before an issue is processed as a grievance, the scope of the policy should be referred to.
  3. Utilise the informal stage: The first stage of a grievance procedure should give an opportunity to deal with the grievance on an informal basis. This allows an employee to raise an issue with their direct supervisor or line manager with the hope that the issue can be resolved without the need to invoke a formal grievance procedure. If an employee is unsatisfied with the results of the informal process, they should be able to raise a formal grievance.
  4. Get the complaint in writing: At the outset of the formal stage, the complainant should be requested to put their formal complaint in writing including the relevant fact(s), date(s) and witness(es). This allows for the efficient management of the grievance process and the planning of interviews and lining up of witnesses.
  5. Triage of the complaint: A grievance should be considered in full to ensure that it is being dealt with under the most appropriate policy. Issues such as bullying allegations or health and safety concerns may be included in the compliant or may arise during the investigation so the complaint should be triaged from the outset to ensure it is being dealt with under the correct policy.
  6. Provide a copy of the policy: An employee looking to raise a grievance should be provided a copy of the Grievance Policy.
  7. Other polices: Those dealing with a grievance need to be aware of other policies such as bullying and harassment, whistleblowing and health and safety when handling a grievance. For example, interpersonal grievance between the complainant and other workers or their employer are specifically excluded from the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022. However, other grievances may fall within the scope of the legislation and constitute a protected disclosure.
  8. Training on the Policy: Regular training on the grievance policy should be provided to HR and senior managers. A copy of all relevant policies should be provided to all employees as part of their induction on commencement of employment.
  9. Working under protest: Where a grievance relates to a workplace practice, normal work should continue and the employee can be advised that their objection to this practice is noted and being investigated, but they are still required to continue working.
  10. No victimisation or penalisation: An employer should never victimise/punish or treat an employee differently for raising a grievance. In the recent case of Patrick O’Connor v Wexford County Council, the WRC awarded €10,000 to an employee where it was found his employer had penalised him for raising grievances.[1]
  11. Alternative avenues for raising a grievance: It is important to have multiple people to receive grievances to avoid a situation in which an employee is discouraged or inhibited from raising a grievance because it may relate to their direct line manager. This can be a problem for small businesses, however, there is always the option of having a designated email address for grievances or other senior people in the company who can receive a grievance.
  12. Clear timelines: An employer should ensure that each stage of a grievance procedure has clear timelines. They should then ensure that these timelines are adhered to. In A Clerical Worker v A Transport Organisation [2], an award of €1,000 was made against an employer for failing to deal with an employee’s grievances in a timely manner.
  13. Meditation as an option: Mediation should be offered in a grievance policy as an option to resolve grievances on an informal basis. Mediation is voluntary and requires the cooperation of both parties. However, this can be an expensive option if an external mediator is required.
  14. Records of meetings: A paper trail of all meeting should be maintained, and the employee should be sent a copy of the minutes of all meetings after they occur.
  15. Representation at meetings: An employee raising a grievance should be allowed to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or trade union representative. The representative’s purpose is to provide the complainant with support and not to act on their behalf or as a mouthpiece.
  16. Abuse of the policy: Good faith is required for an effective use of a grievance policy. An employer cannot permit a situation in which an employee purposely makes a report that they believe, or have reason to believe, is false. Disciplinary sanctions could follow if an employee’s uses the policy as an abuse of process.
  17. Confidentiality: This can be difficult where witnesses and third parties are involved, however an employer should make best efforts to deal with grievances confidentially.
  18. Right of Appeal: The right of appeal should be offered to all findings under a grievance policy. The person hearing the appeal should be someone more senior or at least at the same level as the original decision maker. The person hearing the appeal be lined up from the outset of the grievance process to avoid an employer having to go external but again this may be more problematic for smaller businesses.
  19. Regular reviews: Grievance policies should be frequently reviewed and updated by employers to ensure they reflect changing industry practices, developments in case law and legislation changes.

Please do not hesitate to contact our RDJ LLP Employment Team for further advice and guidance in this area

[1] ADJ-00046217 Patrick O’Connor v Wexford County Council

[2] IR – SC – 00001-92 A Clerical Worker v A Transport Organisation

AUTHOR: Alan Devaney, Associate | Liam Benville

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