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How the HR Department Should Handle Complaints


While the HR department has a number of key roles to play within an organisation, one of the most critical is the appropriate handling of grievances and complaints from members of staff. No matter how serious or trivial you might consider a situation to be, there are a number of basic principles to adhere to when dealing with any complaint.

Know your colleagues

Before any grievances are actually raised, be sure that you’ve made it well known that your door is always open. Sometimes, people just need to vent about a challenging situation or a difficult boss, and don’t actually need a formal solution to their problem. Other times though, a potentially serious situation could go unreported if someone doesn’t feel comfortable coming to you.

Having an open door policy will also allow you to get to know the employees. Find out who is prone to complain, who is likely to be difficult, which supervisor has a penchant for inappropriate jokes, and so on. Keep these things in mind when evaluating the situation, but never dismiss the original complaint outright. You don’t want to be the HR manager who was flippant about a sexual harassment complaint simply because you happen know the accused is always telling dirty jokes.


Always be attentive

When someone comes to you with a complaint, make sure you listen attentively to everything they say. Ask questions, and make it clear to the employee that you are taking their complaint seriously.

Conduct interviews with all the relevant parties in order to build up a picture of the incident and the situation surrounding it. This will give you a clear idea of where to take proceedings next.

Keep detailed records

Start a timeline from the moment the employee approaches you with their complaint, and be sure to include every detail gathered during your investigation. Ask for any relevant emails or documents that can help with the case, and be sure to get a written statement from the employee who originally made the complaint. This dossier will be critical to your decision-making process and will serve as key evidence in a tribunal should the complaint be taken further.

Be resolute

Sometimes you will need to stand up to your managers and tell them that their solution isn’t acceptable. Sometimes you might have to tell a disgruntled employee that their complaint has no grounds and thus cannot be taken any further. Whatever the situation, you must be steadfast, gracious, and perhaps most importantly, impartial.

See it through

Your company will need to have employers liability insurance in place to cover the cost of compensation and legal fees following a complaint, and you may well be involved in the process of claiming. You can visit the Hiscox website for an overview of employers liability issuance.


No matter how things progress, it is your job as a member of the HR department to ensure that everything is done by the books and that the complainant is completely satisfied with the ultimate outcome. You can then begin to work on new initiatives that will help to ensure similar problems doesn’t arise in future.


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