Grievance Policy changes for bullying, harassment and discrimination cases

28 Aug 2018

DWP Grievance Policy, Procedure and Advice has been improved in response to consultation with PCS which included objectives agreed under DWP group conference policy A58/18.

Grievance Policy principles have been improved from 19 July to confirm that:

  • Complaints must be raised without unreasonable delay and normally within 30 working days of the issue or incident which forms the basis of the complaint. Complaints may be raised after the 30 working day timescale where there are exceptional circumstances as described in the Grievance procedures
     
  • Many complaints and disagreements at work can be resolved through discussion with a colleague and/or line manager. It can also help to discuss the issue with someone not directly involved, such as a work colleague or informally with a trade union representative. This can help gain a different perspective on the issue, and help someone decide on the best course of action to resolve it.
     
  • Where a grievance is upheld and potential misconduct has been identified, we will always consider whether disciplinary action should be taken.

Changes for grievance procedure

Three new procedural paragraphs have been introduced to improve support for bullying, harassment and discrimination cases. These are:

  • Procedure 2 -  Bullying, harassment and discrimination
  • Procedure 3 -  Support during the grievance process
  • Procedure 8 -  Discipline cases
  • Annex 1 – Roles and responsibilities in the grievance process
  • Annex 2 – Support available during the grievance process

Requesting a Management Investigation, under Grievance Procedure 7.7, has been improved to confirm that: Exceptionally there may be circumstances when meeting the 30 day deadline has not been possible and employees can still raise a grievance outside the 30 working day timescale. A new Grievance Advice Q&A 19 provides additional guidance. The Decision Makers Guide also covers decision making for bullying or harassment cases under paragraph 4.3 of the Guide.

New Procedure 2 - Bullying, harassment and discrimination

This new procedure confirms that:

2.1 DWP has a zero tolerance policy to bullying, harassment and discrimination and takes all allegations seriously whether they are one of the characteristics protected by law (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation) or not. Managers should read the How to: Recognise bullying, harassment and discrimination guide if an employee’s grievance indicates that bullying, harassment or discrimination may be an issue.

2.2 If a manager receives a grievance or complaint concerning bullying, harassment or discrimination, they should always contact HR Mediation and Investigation Service (HRMIS) by emailing DWP HRMIS at the outset for advice on the best way to handle the situation. The manager should attach the grievance or complaint to the email.

2.3. HRMIS will decide who should investigate an allegation of bullying, harassment or discrimination. HRMIS will investigate complex, severe or highly sensitive cases that involve serious or gross misconduct. In such cases, the manager who contacted HRMIS will be asked to complete the referral form H3.

HRMIS will refer cases that do not meet this criteria back to the referring manager to investigate under management investigation

2.4. Where HRMIS undertake the management investigation, they will interview all employees relevant to the grievance including witnesses where appropriate and they will produce an investigation report. At the end of the investigation, HRMIS will contact the referring manager to establish the names of the appropriate manager(s) for the complainant and the subject of complaint. HRMIS will send the investigation report, witness statements and other relevant material to those appropriate manager(s) for onward transmission to the complainant and subject of complaint. The manager(s) should then follow the guidance provided by HRMIS in their covering letter(s).

2.5 In line with paragraph 8 below, if a grievance in relation to bullying, harassment and discrimination is upheld, the grievance decision maker must consider whether the actions that caused the grievance should be referred to the subject of the complaint’s line manager for separate consideration under the Discipline Procedures. It is expected that such a referral will happen in bullying, harassment and discrimination cases, although this does not mean that the Discipline Procedures will be applied or, if they are, that any particular outcome will result. Note: If a grievance about bullying, harassment and discrimination is upheld, the decision maker (either the Decision Maker or Appeal Manager ) is personally responsible for ensuring that the case is referred for consideration of appropriate disciplinary action and for checking that their referral has not been ignored or overlooked – see section 8 ‘Discipline cases’ below. 

New Procedure 3 - Support during the grievance process

This new procedure confirms that:

3.1. It is important that people are supported during the grievance process. Support available is shown at Annex 2. Managers dealing with grievances should ensure employees, including the complainant, witnesses and any subjects of the complaint are supported and know where to go for advice. In addition to advising employees of the support available, managers must keep the person who raised the grievance and any subjects of the complaint up to date on at least a weekly basis even if nothing significant has happened. This is because periods of silence and a lack of information are known to cause stress.

3.2. Managers may require support themselves when they are dealing with a grievance, particularly if it is a complex or sensitive case. They should alert their senior manager to the grievance at an early stage and the senior manager should ensure the line manager is supported during the process. The more senior manager should regularly keep in touch with the manager dealing with the grievance to ensure their welfare and to check that the employees involved are also being cared for.

New Procedure 8 - Discipline cases

This new procedure confirms that:

8.1. In all cases where the Decision Maker or Appeal Manager upholds a grievance they must consider whether any actions that caused the grievance should be referred for separate consideration under the Discipline Procedures.

8.2. Where alleged misconduct has been identified, the grievance Decision Maker or Appeal Manager is personally responsible for taking action and must:

•           Inform the employee who raised the grievance that they/ another manager, will consider whether the Discipline Procedures should now be applied.

•           Deal with the misconduct case themselves if they are also the line manager of the subject of the complaint and if they have sufficient evidence.

•           Refer the case to the line manager of the subject of the complaint who will then separately commence the disciplinary investigation from the beginning and with an open mind. If HRMIS carried out the investigation the manager will already know about the case as they will also have received a copy of the investigation report from HRMIS.

•           Follow the case up after 4 weeks of referring to check that the alleged misconduct has been considered.

•           As in line with normal Discipline Procedures, for reasons of confidentiality, the employee who raised the grievance will not be informed of the outcome of the Discipline Procedure applied to the subject of the complaint.

8.3. The Grievance and Discipline procedures are separate and each step must be applied separately and fully. This means that a line should be drawn under the Grievance Procedures once the grievance decision or grievance appeal decision has been communicated to the person that raised the grievance. The Grievance and Discipline procedures must not be bolted together as a continuous process. The only cross over between the separate processes is that information, witness evidence, etc. gathered during the Grievance Procedure can be taken into account at the investigation stage of the Discipline Procedure. See Q15 in Grievance Advice for further information.

Grievance outside the 30 working day timescale

Requesting a Management Investigation, now under Grievance Procedure 7.7 has been revised to state:  If the grievance is appropriate for Management Investigation, the employee must:

  • Complete form G1
  • Submit the G1 form after a period of reflection but within 30 working days of the event or issue taking place. Exceptionally there may be circumstances when meeting the 30 day deadline has not been possible and employees can still raise a grievance outside the 30 working day timescale. Please see question 19 in Grievance Advice for more information on the circumstances when this might apply and how managers should consider these cases.

New Grievance Advice Q&A 19 recognises that grievances relating to sexual harassment or bullying, harassment or discrimination may take longer to report:

Q19. Can an employee submit a grievance once the 30 working day limit has passed?

Yes. An employee must normally submit a grievance after a period of reflection but within 30 working days of the event or issue taking place. This will ensure that the facts are fresh in everyone’s minds. If the grievance is about an operational decision it will help ensure timely reconsideration where this is appropriate.

However, depending on the circumstances, this may not always be possible, and employees can still raise a grievance outside the 30 working day timescale. Managers should accept these cases unless there are clear and justifiable reasons for not doing so, for example, it should be possible to raise a grievance relating to an administrative decision taken by a manager within thirty working days. However, issues relating to sexual harassment or bullying, harassment or discrimination may take longer to report. Managers should always carefully consider the circumstances leading to the delay, and review why the employee did not feel they were able to come forward at the time the incident took place. Managers should not automatically reject a grievance purely on the basis of a delay in reporting the issue.

Decision Makers Guide for bullying or harassment cases

The Decision Makers Guide also covers decision making for bullying or harassment cases under paragraph 4.3: All grievances which allege bullying or harassment should be dealt with via Management Investigation. In these cases it is not only about whether the perpetrator of the acts intended them or not, but also about the impact on the individual recipient and how it makes them feel. The Decision Maker will have to read the How to: Recognise Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination guide and consider whether or not the conduct in question has the purpose or effect of:

In harassment complaints: violating the individual’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the individual

In bullying complaints: offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure an individual. It does not involve a protected characteristic and should not be confused with firm management.

In deciding whether the conduct in question has such purpose or effect the Decision Maker will take into account:

  • the perception of the individual recipient;
  • the other circumstances of the case;
  • whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.

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