Has a staff member ever complained to you about harassment, their pay, or their working hours? When an employee feels that they have been wronged or mistreated at work, they have a right to submit their claims to management for review. Hospitality employers need to provide mechanisms that allow for wronged employees to submit their complaints, investigate and reach a resolution. This mechanism is referred to as a grievance procedure. 

Grievance procedures should typically be detailed in the employment contract and employee handbook. If you don’t have a procedure in your staff contracts, don’t worry. We’ve put together a framework that will help you appropriately and quickly resolve issues, so that you can have a harmonious work atmosphere again. 

Read this article to find out what an employee grievance procedure is, which grievances you’re likely to encounter, and get access to our downloadable, 8-point grievance manual, to help you handle employee issues.

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What Is an Employee Grievance Procedure?

A grievance procedure is a process for resolving internal conflicts that allows employees to voice their complaints, and the employer to investigate. It’s aimed at reaching an amicable outcome for parties involved. A grievance is an employee's claim that they have been negatively impacted by an incorrect interpretation or application of a company policy. Employers often develop procedures that detail the process of submitting and resolving grievances, including timelines of resolution.

The time it takes to resolve a grievance is critical, as the employee might disengage from work when it takes too long. Whilst there is no fixed time, the nature of the grievance will also matter. Complex complaints such as sexual discrimination or racial bias may take time to resolve. As a best practice, it’s important to demonstrate commitment to finding an amicable solution within the shortest time possible.  

Types of Employee Grievances in the Hospitality Workplace 

Employee grievances may vary from one workplace to another. Typical grievances you are likely to find in today’s workplaces include:

  • Pay and benefits: This is the most prevalent grievance across various industries. Pay and benefits grievances revolve around the amount of salary/wages entitled to an employee, increment rate, pay equity, employee benefits and their coverage. 
  • Workloads: Employees who are assigned heavy workloads may pick a grievance with the management over concerns such as mental and physical exhaustion or work-life balance.
  • Working hours and conditions: Employees may choose to lodge a grievance if they feel the business is not abiding by the safety and health regulations, or when working hours goes beyond the statutory limit.
  • Interpersonal grievances: A grievance of an interpersonal nature may involve bullying, harassment, discrimination, or a combination of the three.
  • Tactical grievances: Employees who are already the target of a disciplinary action may use complaints as a way to avoid accountability.
  • Union-employer relations. Unionisable hospitality employees may file a complaint over unfair labour practices, such as low pay, an unsafe working environment, long working hours etc.

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Is Having a Workplace Grievance Procedure Mandatory?

You can manage grievances in various ways.  Small businesses typically don't have a complex process. They adhere to an open-door policy in which they simply allow all employees to communicate with management about their grievances. However, in large organisations with thousands of employees, it is crucial to have a standardised method for complaints to ensure equality and fairness. 

The requirement to have a grievance-handling mechanism can also vary from country to country. For instance, in the UK, companies are required to establish a grievance procedure and provide all employees with a written copy of it by law. 

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The Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures published by the UK Advisory, Conciliation and Advisory Service (ACAS) provides that “Employers and employees should always seek to resolve disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace. Where this is not possible employers and employees should consider using an independent third party to help resolve the problem.”[2]

In France, discipline policies and processes are outlined in the company's internal regulations, or Règlement Intérieur. According to the labour code, all businesses with at least 50 employees must create these regulations. Small businesses are not required to have these regulations.[3]

Employer-employee relations in Spain are governed by the Workers’ Statute, also known as Estatuto de los Trabajadores. The statute covers comprehensively issues such as pay, training, social security, parental rights, discrimination etc. The Spanish labour law empowers an employee who believes they have been harassed at work or subject to workplace prejudice to file a claim with the labour court.[4]

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Why Hotel Industry Players Should Have a Grievance Procedure 

Grievances are an integral aspect of the administrative framework of every business, including in travel and leisure. When grievances go unresolved, they manifest as group disputes and can undermine productivity and morale. Unresolved complaints create frustration, discontentment, loss of interest in hospitality jobs, absenteeism, etc. Here is why a grievance-handling procedure is important for your tourism business:

  • It ensures a friendly workplace
  • It’s a powerful tool for employees to professionally voice their feelings
  • It improves employee morale and productivity when applied correctly
  • It averts court litigation and bad publicity which can affect your hiring
  • It highlights areas you need to improve on. 
We hope the following manual helps you set up an employee grievance procedure for your workplace, and helps you handle employee complaints with confidence. 

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[1] Employment law outlook for 2023 https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/comment/employment-law-outlook-for-2023/

[2] Handling an Employee Grievance https://www.gov.uk/handling-employee-grievance/grievance-procedure)

[3] Internal Employment Investigations in France https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=12a34ef1-2ed8-428f-9dd4-9b6db9ff9606)

[4]Employment Act and Labour Laws in Spain https://www.usemultiplier.com/spain/employment-laws)