QMU Grievance Procedure


Queen Margaret University recognises the fundamental importance of a harmonious working environment in the delivery of the University strategy and in support of its commitment to equality and respect for diversity. The University will ensure that all employees have access to a procedure to deal with any grievances relating to their employment or dignity at work complaint without unreasonable delay. We acknowledge that unresolved grievances are likely to affect the achievement and maintenance of satisfactory work standards. It is therefore in all our interests to resolve grievances as quickly as possible.

The University recognises that practical steps must be taken to maintain and promote a good workplace environment. The grievance procedure enables all employees to raise any grievance relating to their employment. In addition to this, the dignity at work procedure has been developed to ensure that every employee understands their right to dignity and respect in the workplace, as well as their role in ensuring a respectful and inclusive workplace.

This procedure is designed to be pro-active and to encourage both positive behaviour and good workplace practices by supporting the creation of an environment which respects, nurtures, values and caters for difference amongst its employees.

In some circumstances it may be necessary that we are required to amend the procedure or vary it as appropriate to a particular case in the event that it is not reasonably practicable or otherwise inappropriate to follow the procedure set out below.

This procedure applies to all employees of Queen Margaret University regardless of length of service. Employees who wish to make a complaint about student behaviour or indeed a student who wishes to make a complaint about staff behaviour should refer to the Student Conduct, Complaints and Disciplinary Procedures or contact the Director of Academic Development and Student Affairs.

Aims and Objectives

QMU is fully committed to promoting a good and harmonious working environment where each individual is treated with respect and dignity. Supporting this commitment the aim of this procedure is to deal with grievances which arise from your employment

  • protect the dignity of those who work for QMU or for those who interact with its employees
  • provide guidance on the resolution of any employment problems and prevent recurrence
  • ensure all people managers support an environment which respects, values, nurtures and caters for difference for all staff
  • ensure all employees are encouraged to apply their diverse talents, skills and experience
  • ensure all employees respect the diverse talents, skills and experience of their colleagues and customers
  • resolve problems as quickly as possible

This grievance procedure should not be used to complain about dismissal or disciplinary action. If you are dissatisfied with any disciplinary action, you should submit an appeal under the disciplinary procedure.

If you have any grievance in relation to your employment you should normally raise the matter initially with your immediate manager informally. Many potential grievances can be resolved informally and managers and staff are encouraged to try and resolve issues using this approach. Where appropriate the University may consider the use of mediation to try and resolve the issue at an early stage.

If you are uncertain whether your complaint should be raised under the grievance procedure or one of the other University complaint processes, you should contact HR in the first instance and they will provide advice.

If attempts to resolve the grievance informally are unsuccessful and you wish to raise a formal grievance you should contact Human Resources for advice and guidance in following the formal grievance process.

Written grievances will be placed on your file along with a record of any decisions taken and any notes or other documents compiled during the grievance process.

If you have any difficulty at any stage of the grievance procedure because of a disability, you should discuss the situation with your manager or Human Resources as soon as possible.

Human Resources will always be available to advise managers and employees in the use of this procedure and to discuss particularly sensitive issues.

Data Protection

All information gathered on individuals as part of the grievance procedure will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

Monitor and Review

Human Resources is responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of this policy and supporting procedures and will conduct an annual review. HR will update policies in line with new or updated Employment Legislation.

Anyone who feels they have been unfairly treated or discriminated against as part of recruitment and selection process, should notify the Head of Human Resource
While those dealing with such unacceptable behaviour must strive to observe and follow the procedures closely, any failure to follow them to the letter will not necessarily render the investigation and action taken void, unfair or unreasonable.

Equality Statement

QMU recognises the diverse world in which we all work and live. The University is committed to ensuring that no employee is harassed, bullied, victimised or discriminated against. It is the responsibility of both the University and all employees to promote respect in the workplace and not to apply bullying behaviour to individuals or to discriminate on any equality grounds.

Responsibility for this Policy

Human Resources. Any changes to this procedure will be made in consultation with appropriate parties.

Roles and Responsibilities

If you have any grievance in relation to your employment, QMU will apply this procedure to investigate all complaints thoroughly whilst providing support for the complainant and the respondent (where a respondent is identified), ensuring both parties are treated with respect.

QMU recognises that raising a grievance under this procedure may be a difficult experience, for a variety of reasons. The University also realises that, in some instances, it may not be appropriate for an employee to raise complaints directly with their line manager. In these circumstances the employee can approach Human Resources or a Trade Union representative in the first instance. It should be noted if a line manager is made aware of a situation which has or could cause harm to the complainant or others the matter must be reported to HR and appropriate action will be taken immediately.

Work-related Social Events

External work-related events are considered under legislation as a continuation of the workplace. Any inappropriate behaviours including harassment or bullying which occurs at such social events, such as Christmas parties , may constitute unlawful discrimination in the same way as if the inappropriate behaviour had occurred in the workplace. Complaints of any such inappropriate behaviour will be subject the provisions of this procedure.

Malicious Complaints

The presumption will always be that complaints are made in good faith and that the complainant genuinely believes that they have grounds for raising a grievance. All cases will be investigated on this basis. An unfounded complaint will not be considered as malicious unless a deliberate attempt to mislead or of dishonesty is shown.

However should an investigation reveal a complaint to be malicious, this will be treated seriously and may lead to disciplinary action against the complainant.

Public Interest Disclosure Act/Whistleblowing

If a member of staff wishes to report an incident which they feel is alleged wrongdoing by their employer, those employees who make such disclosures are protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 . The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 gives a worker who has made a protected disclosure the right not to be subjected to any detriment, bullying or harassment from both their employer and/or their co-workers on the ground that they have made a protected disclosure.

The Procedure

Grievances should be brought to the attention of Human Resources within three months of the incident occurring. This will enable the matter to be resolved swiftly and decisively. Only in exceptional circumstances will a grievance be considered after three months have elapsed since the incident occurred. Where appropriate, it is recommended that any complaints raised should use the informal stage of the grievance procedure, in the first instance. It should also be noted that if you do not observe the timescales without agreement, you may forfeit your right to proceed with your grievance.

Every effort should made for parties to aim to resolve issues informally in the first instance.

It is accepted that there may be instances where the nature of the grievance is too serious to be dealt with informally and it is necessary to undertake a formal investigation of the grievance. Formal proceedings may also be more appropriate where a previous attempt to find an informal resolution has been unsuccessful.

It should also be noted that if Human Resources, a line manager or Trade Union Representative are made aware of a situation which has (or could cause) harm to the complainant (or others), the matter must be reported to HR and action will be taken immediately, potentially bypassing the informal stage.

Throughout the informal and formal process, the respondent (where a respondent is identified) has the same right as the complainant to contact HR, line manager or Trade Union Representative for guidance and support.

Please see Appendix 1 for a flowchart overview of the process.

The Informal Procedure

In many cases issues may be resolved informally with no recourse to the formal procedure.

The informal stage can apply where the complainant simply wants a behaviour to stop, there has been action which was deemed to be unfair or inappropriate, when there has been a deviation from a procedure which needs to be rectified or a potential risk has been identified.

The informal stage aims to resolve issues by adopting a variety of approaches. This may include the complainant approaching and meeting the respondent/ person responsible for the area of concern (for example Head of Division/Department) to discuss the matter, accompanied with either a colleague, line manager (if appropriate) or a Trade Union Representative. Human Resources will facilitate and if required, attend the informal meeting. The aim of this meeting is to make clear to the respondent/person responsible for area of concern what action or behaviour the complainant finds unacceptable or of concern. It is hoped that both parties will suggest ways forward which are acceptable to both parties. If this informal approach is not suitable for the situation then mediation may be suggested as an alternative means of resolution.

Outcome One – Successful resolution

On occasion individuals may be unaware that their behaviour or an action is unwelcome and the informal meeting or mediation meeting may create an enhanced understanding of both parties points of view. This may lead to an agreement that either behaviour or actions will be modified. The individual may be comfortable to undertake this on their own or they may request support that is available from a variety of sources such as their line manager or HR Partner as well as the mediation and counselling services. In this instance, the matter will be concluded.

Outcome Two – Unsuccessful resolution

If however, there is not agreement that the procedure, actions or behaviour is inappropriate or parties are not prepared to consider a modification then HR in consultation with the complainant may instigate an investigation to determine whether a formal process is required.

The respondent will be advised that:

a)a formal investigation (and possible disciplinary action, if appropriate) can only occur if the complaint is investigated under the formal procedure;

b)  a written record of the action taken will be made and filed with HR, to assist in any formal proceedings which may arise if the unwanted behaviour does not stop. Failure to maintain such a record will not invalidate proceedings at the formal stage.

Before embarking on the formal procedure and subsequent investigation Human Resources will offer conciliation or mediation services to try to bring the complaint to a successful resolution.

10.2 The Formal Procedure

Stage 1: Written Grievance

If the informal approach does not resolve the issue and you wish to raise a formal grievance you must set out the nature of your grievance in writing by completing and sending a Written Grievance Form (Appendix 2) to Human Resources within 3 months of the most recent incident of unacceptable behaviour.

Human Resources will advise your line manager that a grievance has been raised. You can raise a grievance individually or as part of a group acting together. If you raise a grievance, it is normal for you to attend a meeting to give your side of events. If there is a Respondent named in your grievance they will be advised that a grievance has been raised and will receive a copy of the Written Grievance Form for information. Where any issue is already the subject of consultation or negotiation with trade unions or a grievance is being raised on behalf of two or more employees by a representative of a recognised trade union, this procedure is not appropriate and you should refer to the University’s Collective Grievance Procedure .

HR will appoint an investigating officer from a list of staff members trained in undertaking investigations. The purpose of the investigation is for the University to establish a fair and balanced view of the facts relating to your complaint and to establish whether disciplinary action is required or if another policy/procedure is more appropriate. The amount of investigation required will depend on the nature of the allegations and will vary from case to case.

You must co-operate fully and promptly in any investigation. This will include informing us of the names of any relevant witnesses, disclosing any relevant documents to us and attending investigative interviews if required. The information gathered during the investigation will remain confidential unless specific permission is granted by all relevant parties (complainant, respondent and investigation interviewees) to share the information.

Both parties may be accompanied at all stages of the process by a work colleague or trade union representative (including full time officials).

The Investigating Officer will conduct a full and thorough investigation as speedily as possible and document the results. The investigation may involve interviewing and taking statements from the employee and any witnesses and/or reviewing relevant documents.

The investigation will seek to:-

  • establish the nature and circumstances of the alleged offence or problem
  • allow the complainant, the respondent and any witnesses to give their version of events to the investigating officer.
  • Consider each allegation and set out what evidence there is to support it or reject it.
  • take into account any personal or mitigating factors that may come to light during the investigation.
  • assess whether this justifies suspending the grievance procedure and applying another more appropriate policy.

After completing the investigation, the investigating officer will provide the Head of HR with an investigation report to enable the Head of HR to decide:-

  • that no action is required
  • whether it would be more appropriate to use other related procedures
  • whether there are grounds for formal disciplinary action and to refer the matter to a disciplinary hearing for consideration

In the event of a recommendation for formal disciplinary action, all information gathered during the grievance investigation will be shared with the Disciplinary Panel members, the complainant and those responding to the complaint.

Stage 2: Grievance Meeting

Having investigated your complaint, Human Resources will normally invite you to a meeting to discuss the outcome of the investigation. This meeting will normally take place 5 working days after the conclusion of the investigation. Human Resources will also meet with the respondent/person responsible for the area of concern to inform them of the outcome of the investigation. In some circumstances a meeting may not be the preferred option to communicate the outcome and in this situation every effort will be made to ensure that the most appropriate form of communication is used.

The Decision

The recommended outcome of your grievance/complaint and the action the Head of HR intends to take together with the right to appeal will be notified to you at the Grievance Meeting. Where a grievance is taken out by an employee against a colleague and the decision of the Head of HR is to refer the complaint to a disciplinary hearing, the investigating officer shall attend the disciplinary hearing to present the findings of the investigation.

Stage 3: Appeal

Both the complainant and those responding to the complaint have the right of appeal against the decision to uphold or not uphold the complaint.

The appeal should not amount to a re-hearing of existing evidence and an appeal must be based on the following grounds:

(a)  substantive – new evidence has come to light

(b)  procedural – the policies and procedures were not observed correctly

(c)  inaccurate – the investigation report misinterprets the information provided

(d)  inconsistent – the decision does not follow logically from the investigation

(e)  incommensurate - the outcome of the decision is in appropriate to the scale of the behaviour

The appeal must state the grounds for the appeal and must be submitted in writing within 5 working dates from being informed of the outcome of the Investigation report.

The appeal must be sent to the Head of HR, who will appoint an Appeal panel to hear the appeal. Members of the Appeal panel hearing the appeal should not have had any involvement in the initial complaint. They will comprise three members of staff who have completed probation, acceptable to both sides in the dispute and selected from a pool of staff who have undergone suitable training. Reasonable grounds must be provided to support any rejection of a panel member. The outcome of the appeal hearing will be given in writing within 5 working days of the date of the appeal.

The outcome of the appeal hearing will be given in writing within 5 working days of the date of the appeal. The decision at the appeal hearing is final and there is no further right of appeal.


Where the grievance procedure fails to resolve the issue, the University may consider the use of conciliation or mediation to try and resolve the problem. This provision is not a formal requirement of the grievance procedure but may be used in exceptional circumstances.

Appendix 1 Grievance Procedural Flowchart

[flow chart]

Appendix 2 – Written Grievance Form