A concept re-introduced by the new Labour Codes is that of Grievance Redressal Committees (GRC). The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 was promulgated in order to consolidate and amend the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926 and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
Section 4(1) of the Code requires every ‘industrial establishment’ in which an industry is carried on and employing 20 or more workers to have one or more Grievance Redressal Committees for resolution of disputes arising out of individual grievances. It must be noted that the Code requires only those industrial establishments employing twenty or more workers – not employees, the two being defined differently – to set up a GRC. However, where a company has more than one factory or branch, each of these will be considered separately and each will require a separate GRC.
GRCs must consist of an equal number of members representing the employer and workers, and the chairperson must be selected from amongst the members representing the employer and workers annually on a rotating basis. The total number of members of the Grievance Redressal Committee shall not exceed ten, and there shall be adequate representation of women workers in the GRC in proportion to the number of women workers to the total workers employed in the industrial establishment.
Section 9C of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 provides for every industrial establishment employing 20 or more workmen to have one or more Grievance Redressal Committee for the resolution of disputes arising out of individual grievances, consisting of equal number of members from the employer and the workmen and a chairperson selected from the employer and from among the workmen alternatively on rotation basis every year. This is very similar to the setup under the Code, except for the maximum number of members. The biggest difference between the current law and the Code however, comes in the form of Section 9 C(8) which allows for an organization to continue with its current grievance redressal mechanism if any, and need not set up a GRC in such cases. The IR Code provides no such leeway.
What is a Grievance?
The question to first be answered is – what is a ‘grievance’?. A grievance is not defined in the Code, but may be taken to mean any discontent or dissatisfaction whether expressed or not and whether valid or not arising out of anything connected with the company/organization, that an employee thinks, believes or even “feels” is unfair or unjust. It is a sign of an employees’ discontent with their job and must arise out of their employment and not out of personal reasons.
This stands in contrast to the definition of an ‘industrial dispute’, which is ‘any dispute or difference between employers and employers or between employers and workers or between workers and workers which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour, of any person … and includes any dispute or difference between an individual worker and an employer connected with, or arising out of discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or termination of such worker.
As is evident from the above, an individual dispute may only become an industrial dispute if it relates to discharge, dismissal, retrenchment or termination. Otherwise, all other individual disputes must be assumed not to be industrial disputes and therefore grievances.
Grievances are broadly divided into 3 types:
a) Factual – where the employer fails to follow defined rules that the employee expects will be followed, eg in granting of leave.
b) Imaginary – where the terms of the contract of employment are not well defined and the employee develops needs or wants that the employer is not expected to fulfil, eg giving of greetings on festivals.
c) Disguised – where the employer provides the basic requirements of the employees but an employee feels that they are not receiving adequate recognition, etc, for their achievements.
A grievance, therefore, is something that cannot necessarily be taken to the formal grievance redressal machinery, but which nevertheless is something important to the employee and which must be resolved in order to maintain industrial peace and harmony.
Although most grievances may not have the ‘seriousness’ of an industrial dispute, they have the potential to seriously disturb the morale, productivity of the employees and consequently their willingness to work in harmony with the employer. In addition, the GRC acts as a means of communication between the employer and employees. Importantly, it serves as a check on arbitrary actions of the management because supervisors know that disgruntled employees are likely to see to it that their protest reach the employer’s higher management by way of the GRC.
For the purpose of quick and effective redressal of grievances, it is important that it be settled :
- To the point of origin
- On merits
- On the basis of as many facts as possible, and
- With an attitude of mutual confidence and respect.
The Code does not prescribe a procedure for a GRC, but a good Grievance Redressal Procedure must
- Be simple, fair & easy to understand
- Encourage employees to put forth their grievances
- Function promptly
- Gain employee confidence, and
- Promote healthy relations between employees and the
Apart from being a statutory requirement, a GRC is also an effective way for an employer to resolve issues and misunderstandings between the employer and employees quickly and effectively and act as a bridge between the employer and employees. By this, it helps in thus preventing matters escalating beyond the point that they can be dealt with internally and in such a way as to keep the mutual interests of employer and employees in mind, and ensures the continued smooth running of the organization and builds an organizational climate based on openness and trust.