8.4.1 Individual grievance procedure for all university support staff

Informal departmental stages

Raising a grievance is a formal step and invokes the formal procedure. The University recognises that some employees may not wish to use a formal procedure and does not wish to deter employees from seeking to resolve concerns informally. The use of informal discussion in any case where an employee has concerns arising out of his or her employment is, therefore, strongly encouraged.

Discussion with line manager

An employee who wishes to raise a concern informally should, in the first instance, raise his or her concerns with the appropriate line manager. It is hoped that in many cases it will be possible to achieve a solution with all those concerned considering a situation with mutual respect for one another and a genuine desire to resolve the matter.

Discussion with the departmental administrator                    

In some cases an employee’s concerns may involve his or her line manager in which case he or she may find it helpful to seek advice from the departmental administrator or equivalent. The departmental administrator may, in any case, be able to assist at this early stage with the resolution of an employee’s concern. He or she will, therefore, invite the employee to advise whether he or she wishes temporarily to delay further procedures in order that the administrator can attempt to resolve the matter. If the employee accepts this proposal, a time scale and steps to be undertaken by the administrator will be agreed.

An employee who is concerned about a particular aspect of his or her employment may also find it helpful to discuss the matter with a staff representative.

Informal review by an independent person

Where it is decided that an intervention by the administrator is not appropriate, or where such an intervention has not succeeded, the administrator will offer, with the agreement of the employee concerned, to find an independent person, normally from within the department but outside the employee’s immediate work area, to consider the employee’s concerns and to work with him or her and those against whom his or her complaint is directed, with a view to making recommendations that might, if adopted, resolve the matter without the employee needing to invoke a formal grievance procedure. The employee will, if he or she wishes to pursue this route, be asked to agree the person to be appointed and has the right to request an alternative if he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that the person suggested by the administrator is not appropriate.

The University’s structures vary from department to department and it is, therefore, not possible to be prescriptive about who should take the role of the independent person, although normally he or she will be a member of the academic or senior academic-related staff. It will be important that he or she has sufficient authority to propose satisfactory solutions and to engage the trust and confidence of the parties concerned. It will, of course, also be important that those appointed to deal with matters at this stage have both reasonably detailed knowledge of the operational circumstances in which all the employees concerned work and are able to look impartially at the concerns of all parties.

The administrator, in appointing an independent person, should be sensitive to the nature of the complaint and to any personal characteristics of the concerned employee, such as his or her sex, ethnic or national background, age, faith, or disability. The administrator will ask the employee whether or not there is any such characteristic that he or she would particularly value in the independent person to be appointed and will use his or her best endeavours to meet any suggestions made.

Where there is good reason to do so, for instance where the department is relatively small, or where many people in the department have already been involved in the matter to which the grievance refers, an independent person may be appointed from another department.

As it may be possible for the head of department or equivalent to become involved if a grievance were to be formally pursued, it is not advisable for him or her either to act as an independent person or to be materially involved at the informal stages.

The independent person will choose his or her preferred method of working, wherever possible in consultation with the parties concerned. This will depend on the nature of the concerns and may include one or more of the following methodologies:

  • informal discussions with the parties singly to discover more detail about each of their concerns and about those aspects of the matter about which each of them feels most strongly,
  • if acceptable to the parties, informal discussions with the parties together to explore the issues, discuss those points on which each feels most strongly, and address the potential for a mutually satisfactory solution,
  • formal meetings with the parties together to confirm a mutually acceptable solution arrived at in informal discussions.

It is expected that the independent person will make his or her report in writing to the parties and to the departmental administrator within one month of being appointed. The report will, in addition to setting out the background to the concerns and brief details of the methodologies used to try to resolve the matter, set out the independent person’s recommendations for resolving the matter.

Further meeting with the administrator

After consideration of the independent person’s report and taking any further steps considered appropriate, the administrator will call a meeting with the employee to discuss the outcome of the informal stages. This may be to confirm that his or her concern has been addressed through the independent person’s intervention. The administrator will advise the employee of his or her right to use the formal procedure (Section 8.4.2) if he or she is dissatisfied with the outcome.