We have a sub-group of employees who socialise outside of work frequently. Several months ago there was a work-related dispute between three of them. We met with everyone involved and thought that we had satisfactorily resolved issues that had been raised. One person has told me since that she intends to raise a formal grievance of bullying. Some of the alleged incidents she has raised occurred at work but some of them occurred outside of work – for instance, a social gathering (not organised by the employers) where this person wasn't present. Afterwards, a mutual friend reported to her that many of her former friends (still colleagues) were openly speaking about her in a very disparaging manner. Do incidents that happen outside of work have any bearing on a grievance she intends to raise? Do we only address the alleged incidents at work or does the incident outside of work also have to be addressed?
The employee should put in a grievance relating to issues that have happened during working hours. You cannot penalise someone for talking about someone else in their own time, but if the same person has been allegedly bullying the employee during working hours then you can question them about this only.
Regarding outside activities, unless they are at a 'works' do that has been organised by the employers, it is an incident outside work and you can never stop people talking about other people – that's just life. However, if the behaviour outside work directly impacted on the employee when at work then it may be included in the grievance, but this would be in extreme cases.
So in answer to the question, only issues relating to bullying at work can be discussed. It might be that at the end of the process mediation is offered to both parties, so see where that takes you.