Any employee who has a complaint arising out of their employment should seek to have that complaint addressed by using the appropriate university's procedure for their staff group.
It is expected that the majority of such complaints will not develop into formal grievances but will be dealt with and satisfactorily resolved through informal discussion, as described below.
However, whenever the formal procedures are used, the employee has a right to have their complaint carefully and impartially considered and to receive, after appropriate consideration and discussion, a final response which will either:
- explain to the employee why a situation complained of must stay as it is or a decision complained of will remain unaltered, or
- change the situation or decision complained of to address the employee's concerns, or
- provide details of an alternative solution which is acceptable to the employee and which is considered by their line manager and department to be appropriate, taking account of the complaint raised and the impact of the proposed solution on any other affected party.
Where two or more employees within the same department have identical complaints about a particular situation, their complaints should be dealt with simultaneously by means of the individual grievance procedure described below. This procedure is not available where employees have a grievance affecting more than one department. In these circumstances collective grievances that cannot be resolved by informal discussion may be raised under the procedure for resolving differences.
Dealing with complaints of harassment, including bullying, and with complaints involving a public interest disclosure
The individual grievance procedure should not be used for dealing with complaints of harassment, except in circumstances where this is the expressed preference of the employee alleging harassment. The University has a separate Policy and Procedure on Harassment, including bullying. Advice in cases that might result in complaints of harassment is available from independent harassment advisers. Details of the harassment advisory service are available on the central Equality and Diversity website, or by telephoning the confidential helpline (01865 (2)70760).
The University also has a separate procedure for complaints involving a public interest disclosure, which may be accessed on its website.
The grievance procedure has two main stages:
Informal departmental stages (Section 8.4.1)
Formal stages (Section 8.4.2)
Advice on structuring a departmental grievance meeting, which will be helpful at both the informal and formal stages, is available.
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 their employment is, therefore, strongly encouraged.
Discussion with line manager
An employee who wishes to raise a concern informally should, in the first instance, raise their 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 their line manager in which case they 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. The departmental administrator will, therefore, invite the employee to advise whether they 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 their 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 them and those against whom their 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 they wish to pursue this route, be asked to agree the person to be appointed and has the right to request an alternative if they have 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 they will be a member of the academic or senior academic-related staff. It will be important that they have 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 their sex, ethnic or national background, age, faith, or disability. The administrator will ask the employee whether or not there is any such characteristic that they would particularly value in the independent person to be appointed and will use their 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 their 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 their 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 their concern has been addressed through the independent person’s intervention. The administrator will advise the employee of their right to use the formal procedure (Section 8.4.2) if they are dissatisfied with the outcome.
8.4.2 Individual grievance procedure for all University support staff
Where an employee believes that it is either not appropriate to deal with a matter informally, or when an attempt at informal resolution has not been successful, and they wish still to pursue the matter, the procedure set out below should be used.
At each stage of the grievance procedure the employee has the right to be accompanied at any meeting by a union representative, or by an accredited elected representative or other colleague of their choice from within the University.
When arrangements for a meeting are being made it will be for the employee to arrange for the representative or person accompanying them to attend. If the employee's representative is unavailable at the proposed time the meeting may be postponed, normally for no more than five working days, in order to facilitate their attendance.
The member of staff should also give advance notice to the person chairing the meeting of the name of any person accompanying them.
Written records, which will be agreed with and made available to the employee, will be kept at each stage of the formal procedure. Employees should note that, when a grievance is formally raised, it is not possible for documents and complaints to be kept "off the record"; those complained about are entitled to know the details of the complaint and to respond to it.
The timescales set out in the formal procedure are indicative of what is required for a complaint to receive an appropriately prompt response. Where it becomes apparent that additional time is required this should be discussed with the employee concerned. Employees should note that, where an aggrieved employee has chosen not to follow the informal procedure, it will be more likely that additional time will be required to manage the formal stages.
The departmental stage
The objective of the departmental stage of the formal grievance procedure is to deal with a complaint locally and promptly to ensure, after the complaint has been clearly set out, and carefully and impartially considered, that, whenever possible, a final response is made which resolves the matter as set out in the introduction to the individual grievance procedure.
Bringing a formal grievance
The employee must set out his or her signed grievance in writing to the departmental administrator or equivalent ("the administrator").
Where the administrator has already been informally involved in addressing the matters forming the grievance, and the employee concerned so wishes, the administrator may appoint a nominee to undertake the following steps (that will otherwise be undertaken by the administrator). Where the complaint is against the administrator the head of department or equivalent (or, where he or she is not available or has already been involved, another senior member of staff in the department) will nominate an impartial alternative to take on the administrator's role in respect of progressing the grievance.
Preliminary meeting with the administrator
The administrator will invite the employee to a meeting at which the employee will, where this is not already clear, be invited to explain the basis for their grievance in order that the administrator can inform the investigation that will then be undertaken. The administrator will, where necessary, offer to arrange assistance for the employee with the written presentation of their grievance.
Once informed in writing of the basis of the employee's grievance the administrator will request a written response from any other party they consider appropriate. Written responses should normally be returned to the administrator within five working days of receipt of their request.
Once the responses to the grievance have been received the administrator will arrange a meeting to hear the grievance, which will be chaired by the head of department or equivalent or, where they are not available or has already been involved, by another senior member of staff in the department. Departmental meetings will normally be convened with five days' notice to the parties concerned.
- The head of department or equivalent, or their nominee, will be advised by University HR as to the procedure to be followed in dealing with the employee's appeal. University HR will, in appropriate cases, on request, provide an officer to advise the head of department or equivalent and to make a formal record of the meeting.
- The head of department or equivalent, or their nominee, may, if they think it appropriate to do so, consider alternatives to either upholding or not upholding the grievance and discuss these with the parties during the course of drawing up their report.
- The head of department or equivalent, or their nominee will write to the parties, normally within five working days of the meeting, setting out their findings and resolving the grievance as described in the introduction to the individual grievance procedure.
The head of department or equivalent's report (or the report of their nominee) will also inform the complainant of the means by which they may progress a grievance to the final university stage should they remain dissatisfied with the decision reached.
The final university appeal stage
It is expected that the great majority of grievances will be satisfactorily resolved within the department concerned. Where, exceptionally, a grievance cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant within their department, a final university appeal stage may be invoked.
If a grievance appeal relates to an appeal of a member of staff who has been dismissed as a consequence of disciplinary action, it should be heard under the arrangements in Statute XIV. All other grievance appeals should be heard as follows.
Appeals against the outcome of a grievance must be notified in writing to the Director of Human Resources within 10 working days of written confirmation being received. The appellant should specify in writing their grounds for appeal, and the reasons why they are dissatisfied with the outcome at department or divisional level.
The Director of Human Resources will advise the Head of Department or Division as appropriate and make arrangements for the servicing of the appeal by an HR Business Partner (HRBP).
Appeal panel constitution
Appeals notified in respect of a grievance will be heard by a panel consisting of three members of staff, at grade 8 or above, (the panel chair will be more senior than the person who made the decision that is subject to appeal). They will have a balance of role types and one, if appropriate, may have experience relevant to the case being heard. The panel members will be eligible for membership of Congregation, external to the department concerned, and nominated by the Director of Human Resources. One will be asked to act as chair.
The appeal panel should, wherever possible, meet within one month to hear the case and all parties concerned should receive adequate notice, normally 5 days, of the hearing.
In some cases it may be appropriate for the appeal panel to gather information, via the HRBP, prior to the hearing. The employee should provide copies of any information which they consider relevant to their appeal, including any witness statements, according to the timescale set out by the HRBP. The department or division will normally respond within 10 working days to the grounds for appeal, setting out the steps taken to resolve or determine the matter and the rationale for the decision(s) with which the employee is dissatisfied. The HRBP will ensure that all those involved receive any new material as soon as is practicable.
Normally, witnesses will be invited to attend the hearing and it will be at the discretion of the appeal panel chair whether any witness needs to attend to clarify anything from their witness statement. The employee may invite a union representative or a full time officer of the employee's trade union (if they are a member) or a colleague, from within the University, to accompany them to the appeal hearing. The employee should advise the HRBP servicing the appeal hearing of the person who will accompany them, in good time before the hearing. The employee’s manager may also be accompanied by a colleague from within the University.
The appeal panel will review the grounds of appeal to decide whether the findings and/or outcome of the initial decision were appropriate and proportionate, and whether it was conducted through an appropriate procedure.
The chairman of the panel may, if they think it appropriate to do so, consider alternatives to either upholding or not upholding the grievance and discuss these with the parties during the course of drawing up their report.
The outcome of the appeal will be notified in writing to the department or the division concerned and to the appellant normally within 10 working days of the hearing.
The decision of the appeal panel is final and there shall be no further appeal within the University.
Back to top