What are the key differences between grievance and disciplinary procedures?

Fsp Business, 16 Jan. 2014

Tags: ee act, difference between grievance and disciplinary procedures, disciplinary procedures, grievance procedures, how to respond to a grievance, what’s the difference grievance and disciplinary procedures, disciplinary procedure


There are a number of key differences between grievance and disciplinary procedures. Make sure you know what these are so you can use these procedures effectively.


If you don’t deal with employee complaints properly, they could fester and you could have a real problem or even a strike on your hands.

Luckily, you can stop this with a proper grievance policy and procedure.

Let’s look at an example of when an employee can lodge a grievance and how it's different to a disciplinary procedure...

Example of a grievance: Mr Mokaba, a junior employee, complains that his superior, Mr White, makes statements about him in the presence of other employees that he believes are racist.

This makes him feel uncomfortable. He also feels that this has been an affront to his dignity. He lodges a grievance with you.


What would you do about this complaint?

How to respond to a grievance

You need to take the complaint seriously and investigate if what Mr Mokaba is saying is true. If it is, you need to take action against Mr White. But Mr White’s also entitled to fair treatment in this process.

To deal with this sort of situation properly you need to know the difference between a grievance process and a disciplinary process.

The key differences between grievance and disciplinary procedures explained

Grievance procedures:

#1: An employee lodges a grievance.
#2: A grievance procedure can have many stages.

The Practical Guide to Human Resources Management explains that, if, for example, you have a small business, you won’t have a grievance procedure with five different managerial levels. This is because you’ll run out of people to hear the grievance before you get to the end of the procedure.

But, if you’re a large business you’ll need a number of different stages or levels to hear grievances. This means it only goes to the highest level after the lower level managers try solve it.

#3: In grievance proceedings you’ll be trying to find an outcome that meets an employee’s requirements to resolve the issue.

Disciplinary procedures

#1: Unlike a grievance where an employee acts first, here you’re the one who’ll start the disciplinary process.
#2: A disciplinary procedure ONLY has two stages in relation to a specific disciplinary incident. These are the hearing and the appeal. If you don’t provide for an appeal then it’ll only have one stage.

Don’t confuse this point with the different stages of corrective action you can apply in a disciplinary procedure depending on how serious the offence is, such as verbal and written warnings.

In a disciplinary process, you’ll impose the decision you think is appropriate according to the facts of the case.

It’s that simple. Knowing the difference between grievance and disciplinary procedures will help ensure you use these procedures effectively in your workplace.

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