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How your grievance should be handled by your employer

Posted on 26th June 2013
Briefing note

Your employer’s grievance policy and procedure will set out the steps it should take when it receives your grievance. Additionally your employer ought to follow HR best practice as outlined in this briefing note.

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Meet the author

Simon Quantrill Simon
Managing Partner Telephone: 01473 688100

If you are unwell and not able to attend the grievance meeting you should let your employer know as soon as possible. Your employer should postpone it for a reasonable period of time until you are well enough to attend

Can your grievance be dealt with informally?

Your employer may require you to discuss your workplace grievance issue informally with your manager. Whether this is a feasible option will depend on a number of factors including what your grievance is about and if you are happy for an informal approach to be followed.

The informal grievance approach has its merits and may well resolve your concerns quickly with less fuss. It could involve one or two meetings with your line manager or it could involve a series of meetings involving any relevant people.

Whatever form it takes your employer should ensure you receive feedback about the actions being taken to resolve your concerns.

Formal grievance procedure

If the informal approach is unsuccessful, or if your workplace complaint is just too serious to be dealt with informally, your employer will need to follow a formal grievance procedure. If you have not already done so, this will require you to set out your grievance complaint in writing. 

Who to send your grievance to

Your employer’s grievance procedure should say who your grievance letter should go to. If your grievance complaint is about that person, the procedure should tell you who should receive send it instead – most likely another manager.  If it doesn’t check with your employer’s HR department/manager or just send your grievance letter to another manager or director.

Grievance meeting

After your employer receives your grievance it should arrange a grievance meeting or hearing with you.  At this meeting you should have the opportunity to explain your grievance and how you want it to be resolved.
From this meeting, if your grievance has not been quickly resolved, your employer will have to decide how best to proceed.

Grievance meeting companion

You can request to be accompanied at your grievance meeting. Your companion can be a work colleague or a suitable qualified trade union representative, if you are a union member. As long as your companion is not involved in the grievance in some way your employer should not object to your choice of companion.

Your employer may allow you to bring your partner or another person to provide support. It is always worth asking particularly if you are unwell. Employers rarely agree to a companion being a solicitor or other legally qualified representative.

If you take a companion he or she will not be able to answer questions on your behalf but they can speak at the grievance meeting, respond to opinions expressed during the meeting and confer with you. Your companion can also make representations for you.

You or your companion during the meeting should keep a written note of what is said and done. Your record may prove to be useful evidence in the event you have to take things further such as an appeal or bring a claim in the employment tribunal.

Changing the date or time of the meeting

If you or your companion are not available for the date or time arranged by your employer your employer should rearrange the grievance meeting on a date within five working days of the original date.

If you are unwell and not able to attend the grievance meeting you should let your employer know as soon as possible. Your employer should postpone it for a reasonable period of time until you are well enough to attend. If your employer thinks you are unreasonably delaying they could hold the meeting without you, ask you to submit a written submission instead of having to physically attend a grievance meeting.

Before holding a meeting in your absence, your employer will most likely seek a medical report from your GP to see if you are well enough to attend or if not what if any reasonable adjustments could be made to let you take part. For example, holding the meeting at your home, or at a neutral location.


Your employer is not obliged to allow you to have witnesses at a grievance meeting. If you think their evidence is important you should ask. If your employer refuses you may be able to rely on this as part of a claim if you think your employer has acted unreasonably.

Grievance investigation

Sometimes your employer will want to investigate your grievance complaint before they meet with you. Sometimes, after the first grievance meeting your employer will decide it has to carry out investigations. It will very much depend on the nature of your grievance.

As part of its investigation your employer may need to speak with witnesses and get statements to help them consider your grievance. Your employer may well need to review documents.

You should receive copies of any statements and documents considered by your employer as part of its investigation so that you can comment and respond to them if necessary.

Likewise your employer may ask to disclose any relevant documents and you should comply with such requests.

Grievance about disciplinary action

Your employer should consider if it is appropriate to suspend the disciplinary action until your grievance is resolved. Alternatively your employer may decide that your grievance can be dealt with as part of the disciplinary process so it will be considered alongside the disciplinary process.

Your employer is most likely to suspend the disciplinary process if your grievance raises serious issues about the manager conducting the disciplinary process, or if you have been given only incomplete information, or if you allege bias, or discrimination against you.

Grievance decision

Once your employer has investigated your complaint it will normally hold a grievance meeting with you to discuss the merits of your grievance. The outcome of your grievance may be given at this meeting, or, more likely, afterwards confirmed to you in writing. 

Grievance appeal

If you do not agree with your employer’s grievance decision you have the right to appeal against it.  The grievance decision letter should set out your right to appeal, how you should appeal.  It is important that you observe your employer’s time limit for sending in your appeal.

You employer’s grievance procedure should also explain your right to appeal.

If you appeal, your employer should hold an appeal meeting or hearing. It may also need to carry out further investigations.

Your employer should set out its appeal decision in writing.

We can help you bring your grievance

If you have a problem, complaint or issue at work we can help you.  Take a look at our Employee Grievance page, including our Questions and Answers section for more information.  

Find out how we can help you

Click here to contact us or phone us 01473 688100

Get prepared

Before you call or meet with us it will help us better understand the background facts and your concerns if you:

  • find your contract of employment or service agreement
  • collect together any other relevant correspondence, emails and documents
  • prepare a short chronology or list of key events
  • use one of our online forms to tell us about your problem.

Our online forms are the easy and convenient way to tell us about your case. Our ‘save as you go’ feature lets you complete your answers in your own time.