The University of Sheffield Grievance Procedure: A Guide for Staff

Introduction

This guide is intended to explain the grievance process, the roles and responsibilities of those involved, and the support mechanisms that are available. It is important that this guidance is read in conjunction with the grievance procedure.

Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that may be related to a wide range of issues; including the allocation of work, your working environment or conditions, the opportunities that you have been given for career development or the way in which you have been managed (please note this is not an exhaustive list).
Circumstances where the grievance procedure will not apply:

  • If your complaint(s) amounts to an allegation of misconduct on the part of another staff member, it will be investigated and dealt with under the disciplinary procedure and you will be informed of the outcome.
  • If your complaint(s) is in relation to any formal action taken against you, under another procedure (e.g. disciplinary, capability) this should be dealt with as an appeal under the relevant procedure.

For more detail as to how to raise specific concerns e.g. in relation to harassment, research misconduct etc, please see sections 1 and 6 of the grievance procedure.

Informal action

If you are unhappy about any aspect of your work or the treatment that you have received, it is important to discuss this with your manager in the first instance, where possible. In a situation where you feel that your concerns relate to your manager, you may wish to raise these informally with a more senior manager.

Mediation

Mediation is proven to be an effective tool for resolving interpersonal conflicts; therefore, depending on the nature of your grievance, it may be appropriate for the matter to be dealt with through mediation.

Mediation involves the appointment of a trained, internal mediator, who will discuss the issue(s) raised by your grievance with those involved and seek to facilitate a resolution. Mediation can be activated prior to, or at any stage of the grievance procedure as long as it has the consent of all relevant parities. If you feel that any mediation has not fully addressed your concerns, you will retain the ability to raise a grievance or recommence any grievance previously placed on hold pending the outcome of the mediation process.

For more information about Mediation, please see the following link:
www.shef.ac.uk.eresources.shef.ac.uk/hr/guidance/eamp/mediation

Formal Grievance

If attempts to resolve your concerns, informally or via mediation, prove unsuccessful or you feel that the matter is sufficiently serious to address formally, you should raise your grievance in writing with your manager. If your complaint relates to the way in which your manager is treating you, the complaint may be sent to their manager or more senior manager.

This written statement will form the basis of the subsequent grievance meeting and any investigations, so it is important that you:

  • Set out clearly the nature of your grievance.
  • Indicate the reasonable outcome/resolution that you are seeking. This may be an apology, a change within a process, the opportunity to access a specific development opportunity etc.
  • Concentrate on the facts of the situation.
  • Provide clear indisputable evidence for the facts and figures. (As part of this evidence you may call upon witnesses, however, it is important to first consider whether a witness has something relevant to say to support your grievance).
  • Submit all evidence with your grievance letter (in some instances this may result in the need to delay the submission of your grievance for a short period whilst you pull this evidence together, as once received a grievance meeting will usually be convened in 7 calendar days).
  • Date your letter and retain a copy.

If your grievance is unclear, you may be asked to clarify your complaint before any meeting takes place. As such, if appropriate you may wish to discuss with your companion how best to clearly present your grievance in your letter.

Depending on the nature of your complaint, further attempts may be made to resolve the matter informally. However, if you are not satisfied with the outcome, you may insist on the matter proceeding to a full grievance meeting.

In some cases it may be appropriate to address a grievance in writing, without the need to convene a grievance meeting. This option will only be used with your agreement, and may be deemed appropriate, for example, in simple cases where the evidence and circumstances are very clear and not disputed. However, in the majority of cases a grievance meeting will be more appropriate to provide all parties with the ability to explore issues fully and to avoid the potential for misunderstandings/issues being unaddressed.

Investigations

Timing - Sometimes, it may be identified that there is a need to carry out further investigations of any allegations made by you, either before proceeding to a full grievance meeting or during such a meeting. In the latter cases, the meeting will be adjourned to enable this to occur.

Scope of any investigation – This will be discussed with you, and in complex cases an investigating officer, with terms of reference agreed with you, may be appointed. The terms of reference should seek to identify the specific allegations/concerns that will be investigated. However, it will be the role of the investigator to determine the scope of the investigation and how best to carry it out.

Companion - There is no right to be accompanied at an investigatory interview with a manager, the purpose of which will be to establish the nature of your grievance, rather than to deal with the grievance itself. However, the investigator may offer/agree for you to be accompanied at any investigation meeting by a companion i.e. a trade union representative or work colleague, if you may find this helpful/supportive. Such requests should be submitted to the investigator, along with the proposed individual’s name/designation, at least 24 hours in advance of any investigation meeting.

Evidence – If any evidence is gathered in the course of these investigations you will be provided with a copy in enough time in advance of the grievance meeting for you to consider your response. In exceptional circumstances, the evidence given by individuals may need to remain confidential. Where confidentiality is necessary, this will be explained to you and an appropriate summary of the evidence gathered will be given to you.

The grievance meeting

The meeting will be held as soon as is reasonably practicable and, subject to any need to carry out prior investigations, usually within 7 calendar days of the receipt of your written complaint. The meeting will usually be arranged by your manager.

You should ensure that you attend the meeting at the specified time. If you are unable to attend because of circumstances beyond your control, you should inform your manager as soon as possible.

You will receive the following in writing at least 7 calendar days before the meeting:

  • Confirmation of the date, time and location of the meeting;
  • Copies of the evidence to be considered;
  • Notice of the people who will attend the meeting;

At the meeting you may:

  • Be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative;
  • Have reasonable adjustments if you are disabled or have other special requirements;
  • Call relevant witnesses in support of your case.

Ahead of the meeting you should:

  • Advise the manager of the person accompanying you (if you wish to be accompanied) and any special requirements (e.g. disability, language requirements); Please note that the University reserves the right to refuse to accept a companion whose presence would undermine the grievance process and individual staff members are not obliged to agree to accompany you. For details as to the role of any companion please see paragraph 6.2 of the procedure.
  • Supply any evidence with your written grievance;
  • Confirm you attendance
  • Advise the panel of any witnesses that you wish to call.

During the meeting you will be given the opportunity to explain the nature of your complaint and what action you feel should be taken to resolve the matter. It is important to keep your explanation to matters that are directly relevant to your complaint. To ensure that your complaint is handled effectively, try not to focus on irrelevant issues or incidents that took place long before the matters in hand. The manager conducting the meeting may intervene if they consider that the discussion is straying too far from the key issue(s) or to ensure that the meeting can be completed within a reasonable timeframe, depending on the nature and complexity of your complaint.

On some occasions, the panel may inform you of its decision at the end of the meeting, however, in most cases you will be informed of the outcome by letter usually within 7 calendar days after the meeting. As part of the outcome, you will be told of any action that the department/faculty or University proposes to take as a result of your complaint.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome, you may make a formal appeal and the outcome letter will advise you as to whom you should submit any appeal to.

Appeal

If you wish to appeal against the outcome of the formal meeting, you should submit an appeal in writing to the named HR contact identified in the letter notifying you as to the outcome of the grievance meeting. This should clearly state the grounds of your appeal, i.e. the basis on which you say that the result of the grievance was wrong or that the action taken as a result was inappropriate. Any appeal should be submitted within 7 calendar days of receipt of the written outcome letter.

Details as to the appeal process can be found in section 5 – Appeals, of the Grievance procedure.

The appeal will not be a rehearing of the original grievance, but rather a consideration of the specific areas with which you are dissatisfied in relation to the original grievance. However, in some exceptional cases, it may be possible to identify where an appeal panel may potentially deem it appropriate to require a full or partial rehearing. Where deemed a realistic potential, you may be contacted by Human Resources to provide you with an early indication of this. This early indication would be provided to enable you to consider if you would be able to participate in such a rehearing immediately (that same day) following any such decision, should the panel seek this. Though it should always be noted that any such discussion does not pre-empt the panel’s deliberations and actual decision, who have the full range of outcomes available to them.

If the outcome was a rehearing, the appeal panel may decide to rehear the case immediately following the appeal outcome, to avoid any unnecessary delays in the resolution of the case and reduce the overall procedural burden for both sides. The other alternatives available to the panel are that they rehear the case at a later date; the case is referred back to the original panel (more likely in the cases of a partial rehearing) or that a new panel is convened (more likely to be relevant in the case of a full rehearing). Should the appeal panel deem it appropriate to rehear the case, you will have the ability to request that it is reheard at a later date, should you feel that you need further time to prepare for such a rehearing.

Support during grievance proceedings

The University recognises that being involved in a formal grievance procedure may be a difficult time for you, however, there are a number of sources of confidential support are available to you if you wish to use them, further details can be found at: www.shef.ac.uk/hr/wellbeing/supportsources

Reasonable adjustments

The University is committed to ensuring that employees and their representatives do not experience any disadvantage because of disability or any special requirements. You are encouraged to raise any queries you may have relating to disability or other needs at the earliest opportunity. This will enable the University to accommodate your request, where reasonably possible.

Further Information

If having read the grievance procedure, the above guidance and referred to the Dispute Resolution Toolkit, you still have unaddressed queries, please do not hesitate to contact either your manager or your faculty HR contact for further clarification/procedural advice.