A grievance mechanism is a system which provides employees and other stakeholders a clear, standardised, reliable and safe way to report grievances, which are complaints of unfair treatment. This system is set up to not only record grievances but also to provide remedy for them.
A grievance mechanism typically takes the form of an internal procedure that addresses any of a broad range of employee concerns and potential causes of complaints that can arise over the course of employment, such as unethical recruitment, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, among other issues.
Grievance mechanisms can also be externally facing and provide an opportunity for customers and other stakeholders (such as labour organisations, civil society organisations and local communities) to lodge concerns about the business, its activities and products.
A grievance mechanism works effectively when employees and external stakeholders are given the platform to raise their grievances through a confidential channel without fear of victimisation and retaliation, and when those grievances are resolved transparently, fairly and promptly.
In order to be developed, maintained and handled effectively, a grievance mechanism should reflect the principles of legitimacy, accessibility, transparency, equitability and predictability. In addition, a grievance mechanism should be rights-compatible, based on dialogue, and a source of continuous learning.
It should be stressed that the grievance mechanism should not impede access to judicial or administrative remedies.