Grievance Policies & Procedures

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Grievance policies and procedures empower employees by ensuring that their voice will be heard. A formal process improves employee morale, relieves immediate supervisors of ongoing disputes and helps to ensure that disagreements or other problems are addressed in a prompt and orderly fashion.


Grievance policies are used by many organizations to provide a reliable and documented channel of communication between employees and management. Written procedures help to ensure a prompt, orderly and fair response to an employee's grievance or complaint. Employees who feel they were wronged through dismissal, demotion, suspension without pay, unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment or other disputed events may take their case to a higher level of management by filing a grievance.


Grievances may be divided into three stages: the informal stage, the formal stage and the appeal process. Whenever possible, grievances should be resolved informally between the employee and his immediate supervisor. If the grievance is not resolved with the immediate supervisor, the employee should raise the grievance with the next level of management. If the employee remains unsatisfied with the reply, he then proceeds to file a formal grievance which states, in writing, his complaint and the basis for it. If the formal grievance is denied, the employee generally may go through an appeal process, with the decision reached at that point being final as far as the company is concerned.


Employers should work to ensure that everyone in their organization understands the grievance policies and appeal process. They are also responsible for periodically reviewing the policies for compliance with changes in employment legislation, codes or practice. Managers and supervisors are responsible for applying the written procedures in a fair and consistent manner, while employees, for their part, should be aware of the policies and follow them when the need arises.

Time Frame

Employees who choose to file a grievance must follow the written procedures and generally do so within the time frame specified by the employer’s grievance policy. For example, the policy may specify that grievances must be filed within 15 days of the triggering event. Some categories of grievance, such as discrimination or harassment, may be allowed a longer time period (such as 30 calendar days).


Grievance policies and procedures are of benefit to both employers and their employees. Employees feel empowered by knowing there is a process by which their voice can be heard. Supervisors or managers benefit by passing unresolved disputes to a higher management level, where they can be properly handled. The company benefits because worker morale is increased by participation in the process. In addition, built-in time limits encourage prompt resolution of problems while hindering the appearance of grievances long after the fact.