Neale Quilliam – Associate
In every human relationship, no matter how big or small the group is wherein a person finds themselves, but especially in the corporate world, where people from a wide range of backgrounds come together to serve the company mission and vision, the potential for conflict is always present.
It is especially so where there are hierarchies of power in place and defined and rigid reporting lines in the working relationships of the organization.
It is common that employees often feel aggrieved or offended and upset by the actions and behaviours of those other employees around them, or the behaviours of their direct reports or even the general actions of the company as a whole. The question is then, what can they do about it??
Forward thinking and properly run companies usually have formalized Grievance Procedures/Policies and employees are advised to follow those parameters closely. Of course, these Procedures/Policies must be made widely known to all employees in the organization and all employees must have access to them. It goes without saying of course that when companies do have formal Grievance Procedures, employees are encouraged to use those procedures without fear of retribution. Companies that allow their employees to use Grievance Procedures freely and actually deal with the issues raised, tend to enjoy high employee morale and dedication to task as their employees feel valued and appreciated for their contribution to the overall company mission and vision.
But what if an employee, or group of employees feels aggrieved about something that is going on in the company?
It is important at this stage to distinguish between two types of dispute that can be raised in a grievance procedure. The first is one that does not find a place in a grievance procedure, and that is a dispute of right. This dispute is dealt with within legal frameworks and cannot be lodged as a grievance.
The dispute that does find itself in a grievance procedure is a dispute of interest, and these may take on the form of a multitude of shapes and sizes, far too many to discuss here
In a properly formulated Grievance Procedure/Policy, the first step is usually a form that the aggrieved employee fills out, detailing their dispute and this form is submited to a designated person in a senior position who has the authority and power to handle the grievance. In most companies that is a senior HR person- – the more senior the better. This form should not to be sent to anyone in the employee’s line of reporting as that defeats the purpose, allowing the line of reporting to not deal with the grievance accordingly.
It is then the responsibility of that senior person to follow the procedures set out in the formal Grievance Policy to handle the grievance with sensitivity and within the ambit of the Policy. That will, in all likelihood, mean that that person will conduct interviews with the aggrieved employee and all other parties involved and thoroughly investigate the issue. It is stated again that this must not ever result in any retributions from any person and certainly not any employment detriment to the employee who raised the grievance in the first place or any form of revenge behaviours of any kind. If that occurs, then it becomes a dispute of right!!
Once the senior person to whom the grievance was raised has completed investigating, the aggrieved employee/employees is/are met with and resolutions are discussed. It is often the stated purpose of a Grievance Procedure that the resolution is to not only serve the interests of the aggrieved employee or employees, but the company as a whole. This meeting is then a very important moment in arriving at the resolution.
If the aggrieved employee or employees are not satisfied, then it often happens that the grievance is raised to an even higher level in the company structures. If no resolution is ever arrived at, then and only then may the employee raise the grievance to a formal institution as a dispute. It is the writer’s experience that this is very rare as we humans are capable of resolving our disputes in so many ways.
If the company does not have a formal Grievance Procedure, then the employee/employees may approach a formal institution to lodge their grievance which will be dealt with as a dispute of interest in that institution.
Some of these points will be discussed and elaborated upon during our Facebook Live event at 15:00 on 26 May 2023.
Facebook Live Event
- Friday, 26 May 2023, at 3pm (GMT +2 hours)
- Access the Live event recording
- Our host (and his contact details)
BDK Attorneys are open 24 hours and 7 days a week with a 24 hours emergency contact number (+27 11 838 1214).
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Kindly note this article is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you need legal advice, please contact one of our legal practitioners.