Grievance policy

1. Introduction

  1. All staff are strongly encouraged to resolve potential grievances through informal approaches and the Resolving Disputes at Work Policy exists for that purpose. It is hoped that this policy will allow for the open and safe exploration of disputes at work but where this is not thought to be appropriate or where it has not been successful, staff can raise a formal grievance. All staff have this right.
  2. This policy covers the following groups of staff: Senior Staff, Academic, Professional Services, Research, Apprentices and all hourly-paid employees. A different provision exists for the Vice Chancellor as well as the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer (see 12 below).
  3. The University encourages open communication at all stages of the policy so that difficulties arising during employment can be brought out into the open.
  4. Employees are excluded from using this procedure to raise substantively the same grievance again, following completion of the original process, except where agreed actions have not been implemented.

2. Purpose

  1. To have a procedure that all staff can access so that any grievance relating to their employment can be received, investigated fairly and effectively, without unreasonable delay and hopefully to the satisfaction of all concerned. A written outcome will be produced for the employee and a right of appeal given should the employee not be satisfied with that outcome.
  2. This policy does not cover conduct, capability, ill-health or grading matters; these have their own procedures for resolving disputes.
  3. This policy may be used for the resolution of a group grievance (see 10 below).
  4. Grievances are normally best dealt with as near to the point of origin as possible. They should be brought in good faith and in order to seek a resolution. For these reasons historical matters that date back more than a year prior to the grievance will not normally be admissible though there may be exceptional circumstances (for example, recent unacceptable behaviour received from a colleague that demonstrably follows a pattern of such behaviour going back a long time), in which this was not possible and the grievance will be allowed. Each case will be considered on its own merits and any investigations or appeals required, will be impartial and objective, conducted by persons wholly independent and with no prior involvement.
  5. The University fully supports and recognises the right of individuals to raise a grievance and this will not prejudice current employment or future career prospects. This applies equally to those assisting a colleague in the raising of a grievance.
  6. The University operates a separate Whistle-blowing Policy for those employees who have a reasonable belief that there are significant matters of public interest that are causing concerns.
  7. Wherever reasonably possible to do so, this policy seeks to ensure employees are given the opportunity to express their views and to have the issues resolved in a fair manner striving for a mutually acceptable resolution rather than apportioning blame.
  8. Where a grievance is raised during a disciplinary or capability process then consideration should be given to temporarily suspending that process to deal with the grievance. Where the disciplinary or capability matter is deemed serious it may be appropriate to deal with all matters concurrently.
  9. Where a grievance intersects with any other relevant University policies, it may be necessary for a case management meeting to be held to agree which elements of the grievance need to be progressed more appropriately under a different policy.

3. Legislation

  1. Whilst not a statutory legal framework, the University will be mindful of the Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures

4. Date policy last reviewed

  1. This policy was reviewed: December 2021.

5. Mediation

  1. At any stage in this policy the grievance can be paused and mediation can be employed as an alternative to resolve the issues. Mediation is voluntary and all parties would need to agree to enter into it. The University would encourage all parties to consider mediation at the earliest opportunity as a way of resolving a grievance as it can be a very helpful intervention that also does not preclude resuming the grievance process should it prove that a mutually acceptable outcome cannot be reached.
  2. Workplace mediation would be facilitated by independent persons, trained and qualified as a mediator, whose role would not be to judge any of the parties concerned nor seek to be accusatory. The process would seek to facilitate agreed ways forward, in a supported and confidential manner. For more information about how this works at the University, please see our guide to Mediation and facilitated conversations.

6. Confidentiality

  1. It is the University’s aim to deal with grievances sensitively and with due respect for the privacy of any individuals included such as the complainant, those responding, witnesses, etc. All parties involved with a grievance must treat as confidential any information they receive or provide in connection with a grievance, subject to seeking appropriate advice and guidance.
  2. It will normally be the case that the identity of witnesses will be provided to the relevant parties. Witnesses should also understand that evidence that they provide will be made available to the relevant parties such as the person raising the grievance and, where applicable, the person about whom the grievance is raised.
  3. Where a grievance is about a person or group of people, those being complained about will receive a copy of the grievance.

7. Right to be accompanied

  1. You may bring a companion with you to any grievance hearing or appeal and the University extends that right to include investigative meetings. Where a grievance has been raised against a person then they also have that right.
  2. Your companion may be either a work colleague or a trade union representative. You must tell those investigating your grievance if you do decide to bring a companion and who that person is, in reasonable time before any meeting. If it will help as a reasonable adjustment to a disability, alleviate difficulty in understanding English or assist in some other demonstratively comparable way, you may request support in addition to a companion.
  3. If your companion of choice is not immediately available then meetings will be rescheduled so that they can participate. In the event that your companion is going to be consistently unavailable or on a period of absence from work then the University will ask you to identify an alternative companion.

8. Grievance stages

  1. If a member of staff has a complaint that could not be resolved informally, using the Resolving Disputes at Work Policy, or through mediation then they should set out their grievance in writing and submit it to their line manager. If the grievance is against their line manager then it would be submitted to the manager’s manager instead. The People Directorate team should also be copied in. However, they do not first have to have used these processes in order to invoke the Grievance policy if they believe that the issue cannot be resolved through those routes.
  2. The grievance should contain a description of the nature of the complaint including any relevant facts such as dates, times, locations, etc. as well as the names of any individuals involved. Subsequently the member of staff may be asked for further details.
  3. The University will arrange a grievance meeting with the members of staff and, where applicable, their companion, as soon as reasonably possible after receiving the grievance. There will normally have at least 10 days’ notice of this meeting.
  4. The meeting will be with two senior managers from outside of the immediate Faculty/Directorate who will have been wholly uninvolved with the matters of the grievance. They will be actively supported by someone from the People Directorate who can advise on policy, provide information and proactively assist with the process.
  5. The purpose of the meeting is to allow the member of staff to raise the issues that concern them and discuss how they feel it should be resolved. The member of staff can present any additional evidence and call witnesses if required. The senior managers conducting this meeting may also identify relevant persons who they feel ought to attend this meeting (e.g. the line manager) and can require their attendance. The meeting will seek to reach a decision based on the available evidence and the representations that have made.
  6. After this meeting it may be appropriate to carry out further investigations and/or hold further grievance meetings. These would be arranged without unreasonable delay. The senior managers conducting the meeting will make these decisions in full consultation with the member of staff who raised the grievance and seek to agree the scope of any further investigations, names of any further witnesses, what the next steps will be and the anticipated timescales. In especially complex cases it may be necessary to agree additional support. Regular updates will be provided to the member of staff.
  7. Where a grievance has been directed at another member of staff then that employee will also be kept informed about the process. This employee will be provided with updates by the panel as well as being informed as to the final outcome.
  8. The purpose of any further investigations would be for the hearing panel to better establish a fair and balanced view of the facts related to the grievance. This may require interviewing additional witnesses or reviewing further documentation. This should not take any longer than reasonably necessary.
  9. At the conclusion of the meeting/hearing or any subsequent investigations, the panel will write to the member of staff who raised the grievance and inform them of the outcome. This may be copied to other relevant parties. It would be expected that these findings would be presented to the member of staff within one month of the original grievance meeting. The reasons for the outcome must be set out fully, and all the supporting documentation provided to the member of staff who has raised the grievance.
  10. These written findings will specify whether the grievance has been upheld, either in full or in part, or not upheld. The findings may also contain recommendations with respect to action to address any of the findings. Where actions are stated, the written findings will also detail who is responsible and who will monitor compliance. Where appropriate a meeting will be held with the person who raised the grievance to talk the findings through. It may also be felt necessary to discuss specific findings with other relevant parties.

9. Appeals

  1. If the grievance has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the member of staff then they may appeal in writing, setting out the clear reasons for appeal, to the People Directorate within 10 working days of the date on which the reasons for the decision were sent or given to them.
  2. The member of staff should set out clearly why they wish to appeal. Grounds for appeal might be that the process was not followed appropriately, that new relevant evidence needs to be considered, the outcome to the grievance was disproportionate, perverse or some other significant flaw in the original process.
  3. The purpose of an appeal hearing is to enable the aggrieved member of staff to explain the grounds for their appeal, rooted in the criteria given in 9.2. The hearing is not intended to be a re-run of the initial grievance nor a comprehensive re-investigation. However, the panel will have full discretion to come to whatever conclusion they feel fair, proportionate and appropriate.
  4. A grievance appeal hearing will be convened as soon as reasonably possible. There will at least 10 days’ notice of this hearing. The hearing will be conducted by two senior managers from outside of the immediate Faculty/Directorate who will have been wholly uninvolved with the matters of the grievance so far. They will be supported by someone from the People Directorate.
  5. The appeal hearing will identify the specific areas of appeal and be a review of the fairness of the original findings. It will come to a conclusion in light of any new evidence and adherence to the policy process. If any further investigation is required then this will be concluded as soon as reasonably possible.
  6. The final decision will be set out in writing to the member of staff within 10 working days of the conclusion to the appeal hearing, unless a significant element of additional investigation has been ordered. This is the end of the procedure and there is no further appeal.

10. Group or collective grievances

  1. Grievances on the same issue can come from more than one employee and this will normally be dealt with collectively, rather than on an individual basis. Employees would appoint a spokesperson to represent the group. All of the employees raising the collective grievance must be in agreement to do this and be named.
  2. The right to be accompanied (see section 7) is unchanged though if the group is a large one then a spokesperson would normally be appointed by the group. All communications will pass through the appointed spokesperson (who might be a trade union representative) and it will be for the spokesperson to communicate with the rest of the group about the progress of the case. In such cases, it is not necessary for all those involved to be present at meetings and appropriate representative numbers should be agreed at each stage.
  3. In all other respects the same grievance process is followed including the right of appeal.
  4. If there is not full agreement to this arrangement, if the grievances are not identical or if any of the employee’s wish their trade union to represent them on an individual basis, the grievances will be managed individually.

11. Dealing with ex-employees or those who are leaving

  1. Grievances submitted after an employee has left the University can be accepted, although not normally. The University notes that some cases with outgoing staff can raise important issues which may warrant investigation. If an employee raises a grievance prior to leaving/dismissal but the process has not yet been completed then the University will conclude the process as best as reasonably possible, at that end date of employment. Employees who have left during the grievance process have no right of appeal against the outcomes.

12. Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer

  1. Informal disputes raised by these employees largely follow this policy except that any meeting would be submitted to the People Directorate who would inform the Chair of the Board of Governors. A meeting would be arranged in line with section 8 of the policy save that the grievance meeting would be conducted by two independent Governors who have not previously had any involvement in the matter. Any appeal would similarly be responded to by independent Governors.