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Handling Grievance and Disciplinary Casework

Over the last few months, there have been a number of roles in the HR/ER Community for investigations officers.

It's not surprising, as casework is a nightmare for both managers and trade union reps, and the emotional pressure that comes with these can sadly damage relationships at individual and organisational levels.

The problem with advertising and filling these posts may be around the authority they have and the perceived independence - it would be interesting to know if recognised trade unions, trustees, or board members are involved in the appointments process.

In my early days in the NHS, I was responsible for managing the process and conduct of all the Area Health Authorities' grievance and disciplinary cases. As a trade union official, the number of cases I was involved in was probably into four figures after a very long career. This was often an advantage to me as my experience was vast, and it was more often the case that some line managers might have been handling a complex and emotional case for the first time. I suspect it is still the case today that trade union officers and representatives are much more experienced in casework management and presentation than many managers.

Preparing managers to handle casework through training and mentorship is crucial to ensuring that workplace wellbeing, morale and engagement are not unduly affected by an individual issue that can become tense and prolonged with an ever-widening impact.

Tips worth considering when handling grievance and disciplinary casework

  • Prepare well and thoroughly
  • Remember it's about the facts and evidence - don't be overwhelmed by the background noise
  • Be empathetic to the emotions that often arise, but do not let the emotions dominate the process or get in the way of the facts
  • Ensure support is available not only for the individuals involved but also for those conducting or managing the process and representation (I found individual casework to be the biggest factor affecting the mental health of representatives and officers I worked with).
  • Keep to the process and remain disciplined about the options and possible outcomes available
  • Make sure you have a trusted sounding board.

There is so much more around how to prepare and represent, how to structure a case, and if needed, manage one. Training, often with well-tested role plays, will help ground any individual entering the most complex area of employee relations.

Trade Union Relations workshops and training 

Our programmes are developed with experts as part of our 27-year track record in union: employer relationship conferences and workshop training. Addressing the real challenges and exploring solutions for workers and companies alike. 

Whether you’re looking for a one-off training session or a programme of subjects, our flexible approach means that we are committed to developing a training programme that fits your business’s evolving needs.

We have a wealth of experience in delivering positive and collaborative training on workplace grievances and disputes. Click here to fill in our enquiry form or to have a confidential discussion about your requirements, please contact Catherine Ouston our Head of In-house Training on 01983 861133 or email