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Employee Grievances | Q&A

Here we explain how to raise a grievance and cover some key issues that can arise.

You need to start and keep all relevant documents and keep notes and possibly a diary. Record what happens quickly after each and every event. This will help you recall key events and provide you with good evidence in support of your grievance.

Most employers have a written grievance policy and procedure. Get a copy. There may also be something in your contract of employment about raising a grievance. Check. This will give you an idea of how to raise your grievance and what to expect. You must follow your employer’s grievance procedure.

The procedure is likely to say you should discuss your grievance issue informally with your manager. This can resolve the problem; yet often it doesn’t. The next step will be to raise your concern, problem or complaint in writing and send it to a stated person.

Your employer’s grievance procedure should provide that you can raise your grievance with another manager. If it does not check with your employer’s HR department or send your grievance letter to another manager or other senior person.

Often ‘less is more’ when it comes to your grievance letter or statement. Avoid making it too long or complicated. Use normal font sizes and line spacing, plenty of paragraphs and add page numbers so that your grievance is easy to read. Your written grievance should:

  • summarise fairly your complaint or concern;
  • be concise;
  • be factual;
  • include dates and names if possible;
  • be bold and forthright but not threatening;
  • be unemotional; and
  • if possible, include your preferred resolution or outcome.

Your employer’s grievance procedure will set out the steps that your employer should take.

There is also an ACAS code setting out the basic steps that your employer should take when you have raised a grievance. It is called the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance.

The Code is supported by the ACAS Guide to Discipline and Grievances at Work.

As a minimum, under the Code your employer should take the following steps:

  • meet with you and give you the opportunity to explain your grievance and how you want it resolved;
  • adjourn the meeting if investigations need to be carried out;
  • give its decision about your grievance in writing; and •
  • give you the right to appeal against its decision.

If your employer does not follow the steps set out in the Code and you bring a successful employment tribunal claim your award of compensation could be increased by up to 25 per cent. Importantly, if you don’t comply, say by not appealing any grievance decision, your compensation could be reduced by up to 25 per cent.

For more detail see How your grievance should be handled by your employer.

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.

No, not normally. You do have the right to request to be accompanied at a grievance meeting or hearing. Your companion can be a work colleague or a suitably qualified trade union representative.

As long as your companion is not involved in the grievance in some way your employer should not object to your request.

Your employer may allow you to bring your partner or another person to accompany you. It is always worth asking particularly if you are unwell or have no one at work you feel you can ask.

If you take a companion they 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 at any time.

Employees often feel unwell and do not want to attend a grievance meeting. It is understandable particularly if a lot is at stake.

If you are truly unwell and not able to attend the grievance meeting you should see your GP so that he or she can assess you and if appropriate sign you off work. Your employer should then postpone the grievance meeting until you are well enough to attend.

You should not delay attending grievance meetings unnecessarily. Having a grievance hanging over you may well have a detrimental impact on your health. Your employer may also think you are unreasonably delaying.

Ultimately your employer could hold a grievance meeting or hearing without you being present. To be fair you ought to be asked if you agree to this approach and to send in written submissions.

Before making the decision to hold a grievance meeting in your absence your employer should obtain a medical report from you GP to see if you are well enough to attend or what reasonable adjustments could be made to let the meeting go ahead with you in attendance.

Yes, at least for the first date. If you or your companion are not available (for good reason) for the arranged date or time you can ask your employer to rearrange the grievance meeting for a new date within five working days of the original date.

In most cases if you have a genuine reason to ask for a postponement your employer will be sympathetic. Employers tend to object when the employee is unreasonably causing problems by asking for more time or a new date!

You have the right to appeal against the decision. Your employer’s procedure and its decision letter should set out what you need to do and by when. When preparing your grounds of appeal against the grievance decision you should follow the above guidance for drafting your grievance letter or statement.

If you don’t appeal, you run the risk of any compensation award at the employment tribunal being reduced by up to 25%. For this reason alone, an appeal is invariably the best next step to take.

Your employer’s appeal decision is very likely to be the end the internal grievance procedure. If you do not agree with the appeal decision you may have a number of options including:

  • You can accept the decision and get on with your job – and possibly start to look for a new job.
  • You may decide to resign from your employment. You should make sure you carefully consider the merits of this option, including whether you could bring a valid claim against your employer, for unfair dismissal or discrimination.
  • Raising a further grievance. Your employer may refuse to consider it but if your grievance covers new matters, for example, about how the grievance procedure was dealt with, they should repeat the process.

Before deciding what to do you should take legal advice.

Possibly. You may be able to claim you have been constructively and unfairly dismissed if your employer did not upheld the merits of your grievance and it relates to a key or important part of your job or terms and conditions of employment. If so, your employer may have fundamentally breached your contract of employment which you can either waiver (and lose all your employment rights) or resign over. Before resigning, you must take independent legal advice because the timing, manner and reasons for your resignation are key factors that help to make up a valid constructive and unfair dismissal case. To find out more about constructive unfair dismissals please see our Briefing Note What is a constructive unfair dismissal?

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