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5 Steps to Handling Workplace Complaints

Do you dread dealing with workplace complaints? If so, you’re not on your own. On many occasions people think ignoring problems and hoping they go away is the best solution, but this isn’t the case. If workplace complaints are ignored, this can lead to further damage for a business and also demotivate your team.

As an employer you should aim to deal with complaints efficiently and quickly to avoid any future problems that may arise, this will also encourage other employees to be open about any other problems they may have, encouraging a transparent workforce.

Unsure how to handle complaints?

Our HR business partner, Fusion HR suggest it is better to deal with minor complaints in an informal manner to begin with. There may be a simple explanation for the problem which can be resolved by discussing the issues openly. If the problem is more serious, it then may be necessary to start a formal complaints procedure straight away as you may feel this is the only appropriate route to address the issue.

Employer Responsibilities

It is an employer’s duty to make staff feel comfortable enough to openly discuss their problems and feel that they will be taken seriously. A thorough procedure should be implemented to ensure all complaints are addressed properly and completely. This may include supervisors or team leaders initially investigating the problems as standard procedure.

If you are unsure how you or your staff should investigate a complaint, Fusion have laid out a simple 5 step process.

Step 1: Review

Review the complaint as quickly as possible, make sure you fully understand the complaint and clarify the problem with the employee.

Make sure the complaint is documented in writing identifying areas for concern and any witnesses.

Step 2: Grievance Procedure

Follow your grievance procedure, start by asking the complainant to make their supervisor aware of this issue and try and solve the problem informally with them if you feel this is appropriate.

Step 3: Formal Investigation

If you don’t feel the issue will be solved informally, you will need to begin a formal investigation by appointing an investigator.

Make the complaining employee aware of how long this will take and the next steps so they are sure their complaint is being handled properly.

Gather all the information you need regarding the complaint, this may include statements from everyone involved.

You should remember:

  • If you take the role as investigator you must stay impartial and only document the facts, not your personal views
  • Inform the complainant at all stages so they are clear how everything is being handled and know what to expect next

Step 4: Meeting

After the investigation has taken place, a meeting will need to be arranged with the complaining employee.

Discuss their complaint objectively, to keep emotions in check and encourage a problem solving approach.

You will need to inform the employee of the outcome of your investigation and confirm this in writing and ensure any recommendations are actioned.

You may advise the complainant of any recommendations but you shouldn’t discuss any action that has been taken against any other employees i.e. disciplinary.

Step 5: Appeal

If your employee does not feel the outcome of the complaint is sufficient, they may be given the opportunity to appeal. If they wish to appeal, this should be confirmed in writing, bear in mind that it is not legally necessary for them to explain why they are appealing the decision. However a lot of company policies state this as a requirement.

Best practice stipulates an appeal hearing should have a more senior member of staff involved. The employee has the right to be accompanied during this meeting.

After the meeting, the employee should be made aware of the outcome in writing.

You should bear in mind that complaints don’t always end in dissatisfied employees who appeal and can often be addressed in a comfortable manner with an agreed outcome that leaves both the complainant and investigator satisfied.

If you would like to discuss handling workplace complaints with a member of the Fusion team, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01254 355688

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