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Resolving concerns at work toolkits

About the toolkits

These toolkits are used in conjunction with both the dignity and respect at work policy for public servants and resolving grievances policy for public servants

Informal approach

The following provides guidance on informal resolution and how line managers can approach it when dealing with various concerns at work. It also provides guidance on how employees can informally resolve some issues.

What is the informal approach

The informal approach means taking steps to resolve any workplace concerns, without using a formal procedure. Cases of minor misconduct, minor grievances or unsatisfactory performance and behaviour are usually best dealt with informally as early as possible.

Informal approaches may include the following:

Facilitating a discussion between both parties

The term both parties refers to the person reporting the workplace concern and the person who the concern is about. Before arranging this meeting, ensure that everyone has been met with separately first, to make sure they're all willing to meet to try to resolve the complaint.

Informal meetings

The informal meeting is one of the most effective ways to resolve a workplace concern. Early resolution offers a chance to develop dialogue; for all parties to hear each other; to nip a concern in the bud; and to identify a suitable way forward.

We all know that handling a workplace conflict can seem daunting and that emotions may be running high. However, experience has shown that the earlier a concern can be resolved, the less stressful and impactful it can be on all parties.

We expect all managers to have the confidence and the skills to address concerns early and to encourage a culture of early resolution.

How managers can get the best outcome from an early resolution meeting:

  • create a safe space by setting out and agreeing guidelines for the meeting: respect, openness, honesty, listening to one another
  • listen actively - identify the needs, goals and expectations of the other person and summarise regularly
  • summarise back what you have heard
  • be clear about your needs, goals and expectations
  • remain impartial, neutral, objective and empathetic
  • be open and honest and encourage openness and honesty in others
  • de-personalise the situation - don't attach the other person or blame them 
  • avoid reacting defensively to criticism. This is hard, but it is possible to do. You don't have to agree with everything the other person has said but take the feedback on board. This models an open mindset, and it encourages openness in the other person
  • identify and build on the positives in your working relationship rather than focusing only on the negative or challenging elements
  • write an action plan with SMART objectives clarifying what, if anything, has been agreed. This might include things:
    • you both agree to stop doing
    • that you both agree to start doing
    • you both agree to continue doing

How employees can get the best outcome from an early resolution meeting:

The following section provides guidance on how to get the best outcome from an early resolution meeting with your manager or colleague:

  • the best way to resolve any concerns, is directly between the parties involved who participate in a process called adult to adult dialogue
  • everyone understands that raising an issue with a manager or a colleague can be a stressful and difficult task. However, it is important that you act quickly and avoid letting issues or concerns build up or fester. If you need support, the resolution champions are available to help you prepare for the conversation
  • avoid discussing the issue with work colleagues or others. They may have your best intentions at heart but gossiping can result in positions hardening and rumours spreading. That makes a situation a lot harder to resolve further down the line
  • in the past, people may have been advised to put their concerns down in writing. We now advise people, where possible, to engage in direct dialogue as quickly as possible. Putting concerns down in writing or sending emails can be inflammatory and can make a situation harder, rather than easier, to resolve
  • in the early resolution meeting, here are five useful tips to help you get your point across constructively:
    • avoid blaming the other person for what has happened
    • explain what you have observed happening and how it has made you feel
    • explain what you need to happen to make the situation better
    • make requests of the other person rather than making demands
    • listen to them when they are talking and avoid interrupting them

Talking to someone privately

After looking at the workplace issue, the line manager may think that the best way to resolve the issue is by talking to some of the people involved. Sometimes talking with the people involved in private, separately can help to repair working relationships and make clear what counts as acceptable behaviour.

Five day fact find

Five day fact finds form part of the informal process. Line managers will carry these out to establish severity of the situation and to determine whether an investigation is warranted. They should be conducted within 5 days of the allegation being raised, or when reasonably possible.

A fact finding exercise should be a quick, easy and an accurate way to establish the facts of the matter. They should be used to allow for, and support with swift resolution. This is not a formal investigation but can be used to help line managers determine what next steps need to be taken (if any).  

The results may be sufficient to establish that there is no misconduct, or that the results of any further investigation are unlikely to provide any clear determination.  

It is extremely important that employees are made aware that a fact finding process is simply that – not accusatory but only to gather information. In the event it proceeds to formal action (see below), the fact find will not be used to determine terms of reference, and the formal process will be followed as laid out in policy. 

Outcomes of Five day Fact Find include, but not limited to; 

  • no further action, if it's established there is not enough evidence to justify progressing to a full investigation, or no grounds for any discussion to be held between parties
  • informal action, the matter has been upheld however, can be dealt with through informal action under the relevant policy
  • formal action, there has been sufficient information gathered during the fact find process to determine that a more thorough investigation is needed and to proceed to the formal investigation process under the relevant policy
  • policy or procedural change, it may have been recognised as part of the fact find that there is a gap in a process within the department that led to this allegation being raised. In this situation, a review of the process and policy needs to be done to prevent re-occurrence

Guidance as to what information to gather to support a decision on the next steps:

  1. confirm and list the specific allegations raised
  2. establish the facts of the incident; when and where did it happen, what task was being done, who was involved and were there any witnesses
  3. establish agreed and disputed facts
  4. can any of the facts be confirmed as being true or false
  5. potential sources of evidence to corroborate or support the facts in the event of formal action. This is to ensure the data or information will be available. For example, rotas to confirm dates, emails, record of training, CCTV and incident reports, anyone who may be aware or have observed the incident or situation

Mediation

Mediation is based on the principle of collaborative problem-solving, with a focus on the future and rebuilding relationships, rather than apportioning blame.

Mediation can be a way to successfully resolve concerns informally, where other parties are involved. Mediation is a confidential, facilitated meeting between you, and the other person or persons, and an independent, impartial mediator.

The mediator is not there to judge, to say one person is right and the other wrong, or to tell those involved in the mediation what they should do. The mediator is in charge of the process of seeking to resolve the problem but not the outcome.

Mediation is completely voluntary and confidential form of resolving workplace concerns.

Mediation can be used to resolve issues such as:

  • bullying and harassment
  • breakdown in communication
  • personality clashes
  • repair working relationships

The aim of mediation

Mediation is flexible and less formal and is a positive opportunity to resolve concerns. Mediation seeks to achieve:

  • exploring the issues, feelings and concerns of all participants and rebuilding relationships using joint problem-solving
  • allowing those involved to understand and empathise with the feelings of those they conflict with
  • giving participants insights into their own behaviour and that of others and opening opportunities for change
  • helping participants develop the skills to resolve workplace concerns for themselves in future
  • encouraging communication and helping the people involved to find a solution that both sides feel is fair and offers a solution that favours them
  • using energy generated by conflict in a positive way to move things on

When to use mediation

Although mediation is available, it must not be used as a first resort because individuals should be encouraged to talk to their line manager, or each other, before they seek a solution via mediation. Line managers have a responsibility to try and resolve any grievance or concern informally first, through dialogue and exploring the issues to try to find a solution.

Mediation can be successful if all parties are willing to participate fully in the process and genuinely want to repair the working relationship. It is a voluntary process, so you and the other person have a choice about whether you want to participate. It is entirely acceptable for either party to decide not to participate in mediation and the decision will not impact any formal process.

Mediation is also available throughout the formal procedure, but only if all parties are in agreement to use it as a method to resolve the work place concern. All parties must also be in agreement that the formal procedure can be stopped/paused whilst mediation is undertaken.

When mediation may not be suitable

Mediation may also not be suitable if:

  • it is used by a manager to avoid managerial responsibilities
  • a decision about right or wrong is needed, for example where there is possible criminal activity
  • the individual bringing a discrimination case or harassment case wants it investigated
  • someone has learning difficulties that would impair their ability to make an informed choice
  • an individual is particularly vulnerable
  • the parties do not have the power to settle the issue
  • one side is completely inflexible and using mediation will only raise unrealistic expectations of positive outcome

The role of the mediator

The mediator is an independent, impartial person who aims to help two or more individuals reach a solution to a workplace dispute. Mediators may be employees trained and accredited by an external mediation service who act as internal mediators in addition to their day jobs or they may be from an external mediation provider.

We have ACAS trained mediators within the organisation and sometimes external, third-party mediators are used. People Consultancy Services will be able to appoint a mediator to deal with any concerns.  If for any reason you are not happy with the mediator who has been appointed, you will be provided with an opportunity to request that the mediator be changed.

Mediators do not make judgments or determine outcomes - they ask questions that help to uncover underlying problems, assist the parties to understand the issues and help them to clarify the options for resolving their difference or dispute.

There are 2 parts to mediation:

Separate meeting

The mediator will initially meet parties separately. The aim of this first meeting is to allow for the mediator to listen to your concerns, answer any questions about the process and explain how mediation helps resolve conflict and whether or not you would like to go ahead with mediation.

Joint meeting

If the mediator decides to proceed, both participants will be brought together to talk, listen and work together to resolve their workplace concerns. The mediator will ensure that each person has uninterrupted time to say all that they need to say and to work through any concerns that arise from this and aim for a better understanding between yourselves of these concerns.

The mediator will begin to summarise the main areas of agreement and disagreement and draw up an agenda with the parties for the rest of the mediation. The mediator will then aim to:

  • explore the issues. Having identified the issues to explore, the mediation is now about encouraging communication between the parties, promoting understanding and empathy, and changing perceptions. The aim of this part of the meeting is to begin to shirt the focus from the past to the future and begin to look for constructive solutions
  • build and write an agreement. As the process develops, the mediator will encourage and support joint problem-solving by the parties, ensure the solution and agreements are workable and record any agreement reached
  • close the mediation. Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator will bring the meeting to a close, provide a copy of the agreed statement to those involved and explain their responsibilities for its implementation

In some cases, no agreement is reached, and other procedures may later be used to resolve the conflict. However, it is important to note that nothing that has been said during the mediation can be used in future proceedings.

Duration of mediation meetings

The time taken for the mediation itself, as with the overall process, will vary depending on the number of people involved and the nature of the concern.

For those taking part it could be an intense experience, and they will need time to move through the different emotional states in order to reach a position where they can empathise sufficiently with the other party to reach a lasting agreement.

Once the mediator has spoken to the parties, they may have a clearer idea of the minimum time needed. It may be that several different meetings are needed over a period of a few weeks, but it is advisable to set aside a whole day in the first instance.

It may also be preferable to leave some time (from a couple of days to a week) between the separate meetings and the joint meeting to give the parties (and the mediator) time to reflect on what happened in the first meeting and to consider how they wish to proceed at the joint meeting.

Location of meetings

Where the mediation takes place is fundamental to the process. Finding a suitable room offsite in a neutral location can help to protect confidentiality and to remove parties from the environment associated with the conflict.

There should be a break-out room if things become heated to allow parties time out from what can be a demanding process. If a neutral location is not available, at the very least it is helpful to have the meeting in a different office, particularly so that colleagues are not aware that a confidential mediation is taking place.

If mediation breaks down

If at any point during the proceedings one of the parties wants to withdraw from the mediation for whatever reason, the mediator will inform the co-ordinator that the mediation will not proceed but will not indicate why or who has decided to pull out.

There might also be situations where the mediator feels that mediation should be stopped. This might happen if:

  • it becomes clear that the situation is serious enough that it should be a formal grievance, rather than a mediation
  • one party's behaviour is unacceptable
  • one party becomes too distressed to continue

Confidentiality during mediation

Anything said during the mediation is confidential to the parties, and anything said that the parties would not otherwise have known cannot be used in any other context. They may choose to reveal some or all of what has occurred during the mediation to colleagues, or their managers, but only if all parties agree. Typically, this agreement to share would cover situations where others need to be involved as part of the agreement, for example if a manager needs to agree training. The only non-voluntary exceptions are where, for example, a potentially unlawful act has been committed or there is a serious risk to health and safety.

The agreement is for the individuals to take forward and agree. There is no further input from the mediator if there are issues down the line regarding the agreement. Your mediator will provide you with a mediation confidentiality agreement.

Outcomes of mediation

Mediation may end in an agreement between the parties or there may be no agreement, even where there has been no breakdown in the process. However, the line manager or mediation co-ordinator will not be informed of the outcome or content of any agreement unless the parties have both agreed to it.

It may be that the manager notices an immediate improvement in relations or relations may improve over a period of weeks or months, because it may take time for behaviour to change.

On the other hand, it may not improve at all or even deteriorate further. It may be worth using mediation again in the future or it may be that more formal procedures need to be brought in.

At the end of a successful mediation, the individuals involved may not be firm friends, but they will have a professional working relationship.

Line manager responsibilities

14 day response period

Line managers have a responsibility to initiate a 14 day response period, where informal approaches are explored with the aim of resolving any workplace concerns, as swiftly as possible, to the benefit of all those involved. Whilst it is expected that line managers will initiate a 14 day response period, it is possible that the informal approaches initiated, and successful resolution may take longer than 14 days.

We recognise that sometimes due to the working patterns of some individuals or areas (generally those working shifts) or annual leave commitments, that it may be difficult for a line manager to initiate or conclude the intervention period within the suggested 14 day timescale. Line managers will make every effort to address any workplace concerns, as soon as individuals are back in the workplace. It is the employee's responsibility to help repair working relationships after any process has concluded. This 14 day period may include a fact find.

What is expected of employees during the informal approach

Resolving grievances and dignity and respect at work

The Government of Jersey encourages all employees to try to resolve any workplace concerns informally first wherever possible. Therefore, you are expected to be open to any of the informal approaches proposed and to give them a chance to run their course. This gives the best opportunity for a successful outcome for all parties. A request to transfer to the formal approach by either party should only be made after the 14-day intervention has been attempted and should be seen as a last resort.

Dignity and respect at work policy for public servants

Resolving grievances policy for public servants

Outcomes of the informal approach

If no action is needed

If the line manager feels that the workplace concern has been resolved, they may decide that there is no need for any action or further steps. If this is the case, they should:

  • keep a written record of this decision and the reasons why
  • update the person who raised the workplace concern, and explain why they have decided that no action is needed 

Concern has still not been resolved

If the workplace concern cannot be resolved informally, you or your line manager might decide to take it further as a formal complaint, in which case the formal approach would be used.

The informal approach has led to a successful resolution, but inappropriate behaviour continues 

  • there may be circumstances where, although an informal approach has led to a successful resolution, the inappropriate behaviour happens again at a later date(s)
  • subsequently, a line manager may find themselves in a situation where they are addressing the same inappropriate behaviour multiple times over a longer period. In this situation, it may be appropriate to proceed with informal action through the disciplinary policy, or to initiate the formal approach. HR Case Management can provide advice and guidance in these circumstances. You can email them on hrcasemanagement@gov.je

File note guidance

A file note is a way of communicating areas where an improvement is needed, or a concern identified and ensures that a record is kept. This can help overall communication and improve standards of conduct and performance without the need to enter the formal procedures.

File notes should be discussed with the employee, not just handed to them as it is important the employee is fully aware of why it is being issued and is clear about what is required.

It is important to remember that a file note does not form part of any formal procedure but can be referred to when considering whether to proceed with formal action and will be kept on an employee's personnel file. If further incidents arise it may be taken into consideration in deciding whether formal action should be taken.

For example, if an employee has been issued with two file notes for poor time keeping and the employee continues to be late, the file notes will support the manager to decide when it will be appropriate to commence formal disciplinary action.

Generally, if an employee is involved and clearly informed of any concerns, where improvement is needed and what is required, they will address this. The file note provides a mechanism to achieve this and can help avoid having to take formal action.

If an employee has any concerns, they should raise this with their manager or appropriate delegate as soon as possible. If after raising with or being unable to raise with manager, the employee still has any concerns, they should raise this with their line managers manager or HR Case Management.

File note template

Formal Approach

When is the formal approach used?

The formal approach can be used if the informal approach has not resolved the situation. We recognise that the decision to raise a formal concern is not easy, so we will ensure that you are supported throughout this process.

How to start the formal approach for Dignity and Respect at Work

Concerns must be submitted using the Speakup Line or alternatively you can submit this in writing to your line manager.

If your concern relates to your line manager, or your line manager has been unable to successfully resolve it at the informal stage, it should be submitted to your line manager's manager or hrcasemanagement@gov.je.

How to start the formal approach for Resolving Grievances​

If you are raising a formal Grievance, you should complete the raising a formal grievance form and send this to your line manager.

If your concern relates to your line manager, or your line manager has been unable to successfully resolve it at the informal stage, it should be submitted to your line manager's manager or hrcasemanagement@gov.je.

How to start the formal approach for Whistleblowing

Concerns must be submitted using the Speakup Line.

For any serious concerns relating to whistleblowing, you can also raise these with the following:

  • Chief Officer of your department
  • Group Director of People and Corporate Services
  • through the Speakup Line

Investigations

Investigations are undertaken following our investigation framework. This framework is used for any issues related to workplace concerns.

Guidance on our investigations process​

What happens next

When you have submitted your concern, you will receive written acknowledgement within 2 working days. Your concern will then be passed to a case manager within the HR case management team, who will provide support and policy guidance.

Reporting a concern

The following provides information and guidance to employees who wish to report a concern. This guidance is generic and applies to several policies, which are listed.

Speak to the person directly

If your concern is minor and you feel able to, in the first instance it is best to speak to the other person to explain the situation and how it made you feel. It can be helpful to describe the day, place, meeting, or event that took place so that the other person can be clear about the concerns.

Speak to your line manager

For any concerns relating to:

  • Dignity and Respect at Work
  • Resolving Grievances
We encourage you to speak to your line manager at the earliest opportunity. Workplace issues should not be ignored or left to fester. If your issues relate to your line manager, you may find it more appropriate to speak to your line managers manager.

Speak to HR Case Management team

You can also speak to either of the following in confidence:

The Speak-up line

You can also contact the Speakup Line for any concerns relating to:

  • Dignity and Respect at Work
  • Whistleblowing

Your concern can be raised any day, any time throughout the year on the Speakup Line, currently provided by Navex Global/Ethics Point. This ensures there is a uniform and consistent log of all formal bullying and harassment and whistleblowing concerns. The speak up line is completely independent from the Government of Jersey. All the operatives will be fully trained and able to offer help and guidance as to how you wish to progress your concern.

There are two ways to contact the speak-up line:

  • by free phone 0800 069 8007
  • using the website Speakup Line. We recommend that you take a note of any incident and any subsequent informal conversations after they happen

What happens next

Refer to how will the concern be dealt with in the policy for information on how your complaint is dealt with. 


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