Employee Grievances

Growing number of grievances being raised

An emerging trend is on the uptick and that is those of grievances being raised within the workplace. A recent survey confirmed that 30% of employers are being served with grievance grounds over the last two years. It makes sense that this is a response to the turbulent times over the past two years with the Covid pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. Employers and employees alike are under new stresses, and this is manifesting outwardly into the workplace.

It is quite common for grievances to be focused on relationships in the workplace with the next most common being around disputes about pay.  

The overwhelming majority of grievances raised is around bullying and harassment, a staggering 67%.

Quite often grievances are a last resort and often as a result of ineffective management resolution. Escalation to a formal process is often an initiation by an employee as a matter of last resort and so management handling of disputes in the workplace are under scrutiny. Dealing with conflict resolution or having difficult and challenging conversations is a skill set in itself and is an often-overlooked area of training but critical at avoiding escalating conflicts; many of which could be effectively redirected with the right positioning or redirection. 

Overall, the survey concluded that there is indeed a training gap identified in both the perception of being the person handling a grievance and the actual mechanical process itself.

Quite often management will seek the involvement of HR and will want involvement from them. However, it is important to distinguish the role of HR from management and they should provide a supporting role only in the management of the grievance process. The perception of HR can be skewed in favour of the employer with 95% perceived HR’s role as in support of company management.

As the cost-of-living crisis squeezes employees, pay disputes are inevitably going to be emerging and employers need to be ahead of this in order to avoid mass grievances within the workplace. Not only are grievance processes administratively burdensome they can have a very negative effect on the overall cultural well-being of staff.

The role of HR should be focusing on driving a culture to resolve conflict before it escalates to grievance stage and encourage an open and communicative style of management. In addition, a rebalancing should take place, so employees feel supported in equal measure in the process.

The figures quoted are the conclusions of XpertHR’s survey which involved 158 UK organisations with a combined workforce of 324,545 employees. It was conducted in Autumn 2022.

In light of the conclusions, it is vital that employers understand what could potentially be coming down the pipe as the cost-of-living crisis deepens. Tensions are rising that could give rise to the perfect storm in workplace conflicts. Training management to know how to deal with conflict effectively will be any employer’s best weapon of choice to avoid workplace disputes and encourage proactive resolution.

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