Grievance Handling Procedure

Grievance Handling Procedure

Grievances can be very harmful to organisations especially if not addressed properly. Therefore, an organisation should have a step by step effective grievance handling procedure. There is no generalised grievance handling procedure for all organisations, each procedure differs from one company to another however, the processes and steps are similar in most industries.

Table Of Contents

What Is A Grievance Handling Procedure

A grievance handling procedure is a step by step process of presentation of grievances and ways in which they are resolved within an organisation. It can also be seen as a communication process between frustrated employees and employers. Addressing complaints, grievances and conflicts can help strengthen industrial relations within the workspace. If grievances are not addressed employee morale and commitment will be negatively affected.

Informal Approach

The first step in a grievance handling procedure is to attempt to resolve an employee’s complaint informally. Speaking to the employee about how they would like the issue to be resolved before it escalates is advisable. The employee should be reassured that his/her complaint is taken seriously and that the matter will be addressed. If an employee has an issue or complaint with a person in the same rank as s/he is then the matter can be easily resolved with a straightforward discussion between the colleagues with or without the presence of a human resources manager. However, this may not be easy when it comes to grievances or complaints against superiors.

A formal Meeting

If an informal approach is not successful or the employee’s grievance is against a superior, then a formal meeting can be held. At this second stage of the grievance handling procedure, a formal hearing can be held. At the hearing the employee has an opportunity to elaborate on his/her complaints and provide the relevant details and supporting evidence if it is available. The human resources manager or employer can use this opportunity to establish the relevant facts about the employee’s grievance. Sometimes, if the employer or whoever addresses the issue is able to come to a reasonable solution, the grievance can be resolved at this stage. It is important to note that an employee has the right to be accompanied by a labour union representative or another colleague to a grievance hearing.


If the grievance or matter cannot be resolved in the formal meeting an investigation will need to be conducted. This is the third stage of the grievance handling procedure. The person responsible in addressing the matter will need to speak to witnesses if they are any. All the information and evidence regarding the complaint will need to be compiled so that the matter can be resolved as soon as possible. Depending with the severity of the issue, it may take a short time, or the investigation can be lengthy. Also, if the necessary information is obtained then the matter can be concluded accordingly.

Grievance Outcome

The grievance outcome is the third stage of the grievance handling procedure. At this stage, based on the information of the investigation when all the facts and information are put together an outcome is reached.  The person responsible for handling the matter will need to communicate to the employee about the outcome of his/her complaint. All the facts related to the grievance should be compiled and a fair and honest investigation should have been completed at this stage. The decision to uphold all or part of an employee’s grievance can then be made. If the grievance is rejected and the employee is still not satisfied the grievance handling procedure should be moved to the next stage. Also, if the matter is resolved and the employee is still not satisfied the matter can be escalated.

Grievance Appeal

The grievance appeal is the last stage of the grievance handling procedure. All employees have the right to appeal if they feel that their issues have not been handled fairly or appropriately. At this stage the appeal hearing chair should establish why the employee would appeal and assess the resolution being sought after by him/her. The case will be reviewed, and a fair investigation will be conducted once more before a final decision is made. Whatever outcome is reached at this stage will be the final resolution since this stage is the last in the grievance handling procedure.

Other grievance handling Procedures

Industrial experts have come up with 3 grievance handling procedures that can be applied in different kinds of organisations. These are: open door policy, step ladder approach and a grievance handling committee policy.

Open Door Policy

As the name suggests, this grievance handling procedure allows employees of all levels in the organisation to see their superiors in order to air their grievances. This procedure means that the doors of management or executives are always open for employees. Such a grievance handling procedure works well in small to medium organisations where the executives are in touch with their employees. This way, grievances can be addressed in a quick and timely manner. Such a policy may be challenging to practise in large organisations but can be implemented at a departmental level.

Step Ladder Policy

A step ladder grievance handling procedure means that when an employee has a complaint s/he takes it to his/her immediate supervisor. Like the name implies, a step by step procedure is followed. If the employee is not satisfied with the solution provided by his/her superior the issue can be taken up to the middle management. If the employee is still not satisfied the issue will be escalated to the top management and further up until it reaches the executive committee, based on the outcomes. A step ladder grievance handling procedure works well in medium to large organisations where it is not possible for top managers to handle employee grievances due to their large numbers.

Grievance Handling Committee

According to this grievance handling procedure a grievance handling committee is appointed in the organisation to address employee complaints and grievances. Some companies appoint representatives from the management team and employees to be part of this committee. This implies that any matter or grievance that an employee has will be addressed by the grievance handling committee. In some companies the complaint may not be directed to the committee directly. An issue can be resolved within the affected department and if it cannot be resolved by the superior in that department it can be taken to the grievance handling committee.

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