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    All You Need to Know about Grievance Handling Procedure

    January 31, 2022

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    grievance handling procedure

    Did you know that 63% of women don’t file sexual harassment complaints, and 79% of men who faced issues never brought them up? You can play your part in making sure that employees are safer by having a fair grievance handling procedure in place.

    This blog will help you understand the grievance handling procedure in detail and guide you through the steps to handle the grievance.

    It is to be expected that not everything always goes according to plan. Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, things either go wrong or are not taken care of. When something goes wrong in the workplace, employees need to be empowered with a channel to address that concern.

    When something should not happen in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, unfair pay, or verbal or physical abuse, employees must inform the concerned parties about it to address the issue.

    An ideal situation is to have no such grievances in the workplace. Even if they occur, the management must see that they get resolved immediately and without harming either the employee or the employer. The grievance handling procedure ensures this process is smooth and effective.

    What is a Grievance Handling Procedure?

    The process that a formal complaint goes through is defined by a predetermined set of rules is known as a grievance handling procedure.

    Every company has different grievance handling procedures. Most of these procedures are in written format. The employees can learn about them either in their contracts or their employee handbooks.

    Essentially, companies are required to investigate every grievance thoroughly. However, more often than not, these grievances aren’t taken seriously enough, even by its employees.

    Once an employee registers a grievance and the management fails to satisfactorily address it, the document can serve to aid the said employee in a legal battle against the organization or whoever they have filed the grievance against.

    Pros and Cons of the Grievance Handling Procedure

    Here are a few pros and cons of the grievance handling procedure:


    • A clearly defined procedure that employees can follow to address their grievances.
    • Employees feel safe to use the grievance handling procedure if they feel mistreated or if something untoward happens at work.
    • There is clear documentation of the grievance and how to handle it, even the probable result.
    • Organizations or management cannot claim ignorance as there is clear, documented evidence.
    • If the grievance has been actioned, it means that employees cannot file false suits as clear documentation shows what has been done.
    • The handling of the grievance becomes simple and transparent. (This is not necessarily the case)
    • In case of union involvement, the employee may be represented by a union official or a lawyer at no additional cost.


    • An overly formal procedure may discourage employees from filing grievances.
    • The grievance handling procedure can get complicated during investigations and may get drawn out.
    • Employees could potentially use the grievance handling procedure maliciously for their benefit.

    Now that we have a clear idea of what the grievance handling procedure is, let’s go through the steps to handle grievances.

    Steps for Grievance Handling

    1. Informal

    When something goes wrong, the first thing expected of an employee is to approach their immediate superior and inform them of what has happened.

    Afterward, the superior can determine if the issue has to be moved further through the procedure or if it can be resolved then and there. Whatever the decision, it is advisable that superiors document all grievances and actions, even if the grievance is dismissed or resolved informally.

    Superiors must listen and, if required, document the grievance without bias. In some cases, when the grievances are severe or personal, or confidential, the management can bypass this step. One example is sexual harassment or physical abuse, where the employee may elect to go directly to HR, bypassing all their superiors. They may also opt to go in for legal counsel, and after receiving the right advice, begin with the grievance handling procedure.

    2. Formal meeting with concerned parties

    If the grievance is not resolved or dismissed, it moves onto the next step of the grievance handling procedure.

    A formal meeting will be held between the management and the employee who has filed the grievance where both parties try to outline, understand, and document the details of the grievance.

    At this stage, the employee is within their rights to request that a colleague, union representative, or legal counsel be present for this meeting. The employee has the opportunity to clearly explain the occurrences of the grievance and provide the evidence if required.

    The employer must establish the facts without bias, such as when the issue occurred, who was involved, what happened, where it happened, why it happened, and understand how the situation took place.

    In most cases, if the issue is not severe, it can be resolved in this meeting.

    For less severe issues, the employer may meet with any other concerned party to get their perspective on the matter. In such cases, the issue is easily resolved.

    For the more severe issues, such as workplace harassment or misconduct by another employee, the grievance moves to the next stage. If the issue is severe, the meeting with other concerned parties will come under the grievance investigation part of the grievance handling procedure.

    3. Grievance investigation

    For serious matters, the management carries out an investigation involving speaking to the employee who raised the grievance, the others involved and reviewing camera footage or whatever other evidence may be available. It is also the stage where the management examines the evidence brought in by the employee.

    4. Grievance result or action

    Once the investigation finishes, the management can decide if the matter holds merit and whether or not it should move on to the next step. If they decide against it, the management can choose to reject it.

    If the employee still feels grieved after this stage the matter moves on to the next step.

    Whether or not the management has taken action or resolved or rejected the matter, they should document the proceedings and communicate them to the employee and any other parties involved.

    5. A mediator or legal representative can be looped in

    If the employee is unsatisfied with the action or result of the grievance handling procedure, and they have not had legal representation till this point, they may decide to seek help from a mediator or legal representative to solicit advice.

    6. Grievance appeal

    Whether an employee brings in a legal representative or mediator or not, the said employee has the right to challenge the management's decision. To prevent this, the grievance must be thoroughly reviewed and investigated before the management reaches an appeal outcome.

    If the grievance is resolved, this is the final step. However, if not resolved, there may be further legal actions that both parties - the organization and the employee - must take.

    While the procedure on paper can seem rather long, the grievance handling procedure must make the process quick and efficient and ensure that both the employer and employee are happy with the outcome.

    The duration of the grievance handling depends entirely on what the situation is and how satisfied either party is with the outcome. Certain matters such as unfair pay practices can take months or even years to resolve.

    With other straightforward matters, the resolution is usually quick. The management may resolve it within a couple of hours with proper handling.


    A clear grievance handling procedure is a necessity. It is also equally important that the organization informs its employees of this procedure and the steps to use this procedure if required.

    If your organization is a large one, it is advisable to seek legal counsel or, at the least, professional help when creating the grievance procedure and ensure that there is as much transparency as possible. If you are a medium or small enterprise, your HR policies should cover this aspect too.

    Keep in mind that the procedure is not meant as a barrier for employees. It is for the employees to resolve their concerns hassle-free. An efficient grievance handling procedure also ensures the well-being and safety of its employees to protect the company from any unforeseen liability.

    If your organization doesn't have a grievance handling procedure yet, you should see to putting together a simple one and inform the employees on putting it to use.

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