Grievance Handling

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This case study is based on real life events and on the actual approach taken by Jay Webb as the appointed independent HR professional. Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons. The aim of this case study is to give you an idea of the processes involved when performing a grievance investigation. If you have any questions regarding the processes, please feel free to contact us

Key Players

Matilda – employee and complainant

Sheila – colleague of Matilda

Gertrude – manager of Matilda and Sheila

John – another manager in the firm

Background to the Company

The company is a major construction organisation  Relevant Policies and procedures are in place but not effectively being utilised.

The Allegation

Matilda (the employee) complains that the Sheila (a colleague) is trying to get her to leave the organisation so that Sheila’s friend can be employed in Matilda’s job.  Matilda alleged that Sheila has been making her life difficult at work and she has experienced bullying and harassment.

Matilda says that Sheila complains about anything that Matilda does and constantly tells her to leave the organisation because no one wants her there.  Matilda alleges that Sheila deliberately does not pass on crucial information about day-to-day work, which then creates the impression that Matilda is underperforming in her role.

Matilda also alleges that Sheila is very friendly with their manager, Gertrude. She alleges that they often socialise outside of work.

Matilda has raised concerns about her treatment from Sheila on many occasions with Gertrude, who had simply told her to deal with the matter herself.

Matilda says she is stressed out and alleges that things came to a head when Sheila had spent the whole day picking on Matilda, making her cry.  Sheila finds her in the toilets there and tells her that she should realise she is not wanted in the team and should leave.

Matilda cannot afford to be without a job and does not see why she should be forced out of her job.

Matilda goes home and decides that she is too upset to go to work the following day.  She rings another manager, John, to say that she is frightened to go to work because she would be picked on.

John says he is aware of what has been alleged and thought it had been dealt with by Gertrude months ago.  He advises her that she should not go to work and the he would speak to Gertrude.

Matilda does as she has been instructed, but returns to work after a few days, as instructed. Gertrude calls her into the office to ask why she was not at work and why she had not rung into the office to speak to her and tell her that she would not be in.

Matilda is told that because she has not complied with the sickness reporting requirements, she will not be paid for her time off.  Matilda explained that she rang John, who was aware of what had happened and had advised her not to go into work.

Gertrude laughs and tells Matilda and that the office had bets on whether she would be in work the day after she had been crying and that because of her failure to attend, Gertrude had won £50.

Matilda tells Gertrude that she is going to raise a grievance because she does not think the way she has been treated is right.  She says she will write to senior management about the way she has been treated.

Gertrude tells Matilda that she cannot register a grievance and that she should just knuckle down and get on with things for the sake of the team.

Gertrude says that Matilda is the problem, not anyone else.  John was not going to do anything to help either, because they had discussed it and senior management wouldn’t want to deal with someone at her low level in the organisation.

Matilda is vey upset and decides that enough is enough.  She writes to the CEO to ask for help and formally registers a grievance against Sheila and Gertrude.


  • The manager has been complained about
  • An employee has been complained about
  • An independent manager has done nothing to resolve the issue

An initial risk assessment reveals the problem areas

  • Work-related stress
  • Breach of duty of care for health, safety and well-being of Matilda
  • Bullying and harassment claim

If proven, the case has the potential to have media interest and a significant cost implication for the organisation.

Bearing all this in mind, the CEO appoints a manager to oversee the case and calls in an independent investigator.

Investigation by Jay Webb

Step One – meeting key players and establishing facts

Once assigned to the case, Jay meets with each of the employees to investigate the facts and to identify possible solutions.

The case was further complicated by Matilda going off sick with work related stress.  However, contact was made with Matilda and she agrees to attend an investigation meeting provided that it was not in her current work location.  With Matilda’s agreement, the interview was held at her home with her representative present.

Step Two – report writing and suggestions for progress

Upon discussion with all relevant parties, it was decided that the allegations raised by Matilda were sufficient to arrange a separate disciplinary investigation involving Gertrude and Sheila.

Both were told that they faced disciplinary action in line with the firm’s disciplinary policy and procedures.

Step Three – feedback for John

John did ask Gertrude to deal with the situation after Matilda contacted him, but after the facts of the case were established, he was given coaching by Jay in how to deal with a grievance where the complainant is not your direct employee.

Step Four – support for Matilda

Matilda was given counselling and the option of being re-deployed to another team or back to her old job. She decided to stay in her job.

Step Five – The firm was advised and encouraged by Jay to undertake team-building exercises to strengthen the sense of workplace cohesion.

For more information call Jay Webb on 01509 216395 or 07818 440 472 or email

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01509 216395


Jay has been an invaluable resource to me.


Glynis Wright
Glynis Wright & Co

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