Most people will have issues with work colleagues at some point during their working lives…. Sad but true. These issues can range from petty arguments which are quickly forgotten to serious longstanding disputes.
Whatever the issue, if you don't get on with your work colleagues or management, work can become a nightmare!
You may be vaguely aware of what to do if you want to complain about someone you work with. But what happens if it's the other way around and your colleague complains about you? First things first, keep calm! Your colleague may raise a formal grievance against you over something relatively minor. Once you’ve explained your side of the story, it may turn out to be an unfortunate mis-understanding where an apology is enough to satisfy the complainant. On the other hand, it could turn bitter resulting in a long winded grievance process. Either way, you need to be prepared to handle it.
Second, do remember that your employer has a duty to listen to all employees who feel aggrieved but also to hear what you have to say.
That said, the grievance process can be stressful for all parties involved. It's important that your employer follows a fair process in line with the ACAS Code of Practice relating to Grievances/ Disciplinaries and its internal grievance procedure.
How should it be handled?
Take note of the following practical guidance:
1. Your employer should inform you if a grievance is raised about you and you should be given full details of the complaint or a copy of the grievance letter (you may only be given details of the parts which relate to you if there are a number of parts to the grievance). If this is not provided, be sure to ask for a copy.
2. You should collect all the evidence you have - e-mails, memos, letters, notes of telephone conversations, notes of interviews, appraisal forms and so on. It usually helps to produce a chronology of events.
3. You should prepare your defence against the allegations made and submit this prior to your investigation meeting.
4. Your employer may try to involve you in trying to seek to resolve the matter informally or through mediation in the first instance where possible. You should get involved in this if you feel able to.
5. If the grievance moves to the formal stage of the procedure, you should be invited to an investigation meeting and if this is the case, you don’t have the legal right to be accompanied. But, you should ask your employer if you can bring someone along for moral support and to help you take notes of what is discussed.
6. Your employer should give you the opportunity to respond to the complaint made against you and you should put forward your version of events whilst setting out your defence in full.
7. Your employer should arrange for minutes of the meeting to be prepared which you will have the opportunity to check and sign.
8. Your employer should keep you informed of the timescales for resolving the grievance.
9. You will also be entitled to be informed of the outcome of the grievance where appropriate and where it relates to you.
The grievance could be determined in a number of ways which may or may not involve you.
Bear in my mind that if the grievance is not upheld, the complainant has the right to appeal against the decision so it may not be the end of the matter until the appeal has been concluded.
If it turns out that a colleague has raised a false grievance against you or made malicious allegations then you could have grounds to raise a separate grievance against them. This can be tricky. In addition, if you feel aggrieved and/or your employer has treated you unfairly or discriminated against you during the process, you may also want to raise a grievance against your employer. In either case, you should seek legal advice prior to drafting your grievance letter.
You can contact our employment team for expert employment advice on 0808 175 8000.