A grievance in the workplace is more than just a complaint; it is a tool that starts the process to deal with and resolve work related problems.
The Grievance Policy should also not be confused with the Disciplinary Procedure and Code, it is not the same thing. It is however possible that the policies may overlap in certain cases.
Grievance Policies are generally in place to provide a framework within which employees and management deal with complaints in the workplace. If an employer fails to resolve a work related problem or the employee perceives this to be the case - then the employer may be taken to the CCMA or Labour Court.
A Grievance Policy will as such assist employees to know their rights and they will know what to do if they have a complaint. Managers will know how to handle complaints, and complaints can generally be resolved without the parties going to Court or the CCMA.
Example: an employee, Jane, complains to the director of the company that another employee, Jack, keeps on touching her in sexually suggestive ways. The director then fails to take action or to investigate this complaint because he thinks that Jane is just being oversensitive. Jane can now inter alia lodge a claim against the company for:
Unfair discrimination based on sexual harassment; Damages under the Employment Equity Act; Jane could resign and claim constructive dismissal.
Having a formal policy in place will ensure the following:
Consistency of how complaints are handled in the workplace; Assurance to employees that they are allowed to air their grievances; Written records so as to document the complaint and what was done to resolve the grievance this will also ensure that the employer knows what the complainant wants to achieve with the complaint; The employers willingness to resolve the issues are also recorded; On record is also the management level that must deal with the complaint and the time periods involved for the problems to be resolved, before it must be escalated to a more senior manager; Greater transparency in the workplace.
The Grievance Policy should try to at least do the following:
Keep the complaints within the company; Resolve the complaints as quickly as possible, using the lowest possible level of manpower; Provide protection for employees this, in return will provide protection for the employer. A grievance in the workplace is more than just a complaint; it is a tool that starts the process to deal with and resolve work related problems.