A grievance is a concern, problem or complaint that an employee raises with his employer. Most grievances will concern issues that are within an employer’s control i.e. treatment afforded to employees by management or other employees, but sometimes the issue may be in respect of the behaviour of clients or customers.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, it might be more appropriate for the employee to use the company’s personal harassment procedure if there is one.

Some grievances raised by employees may be resolved informally without the need to revert to any procedure, simply by talking to their manager. The Acas Code of Practice recommends that employees attempt to resolve an issue in this way before instigating a formal procedure.

However, if an employee remains dissatisfied after an informal attempt to resolve the issue, they should begin a formal procedure.

The formal procedure recommended that employees set out their grievance in writing to their employer. When employers receive such a grievance, the employer should arrange for a formal meeting to be held without unreasonable delay, at a time and place notified to the employee in advance.

The employee has the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or a trade union representative at the hearing – remember that this does not only apply to disciplinary hearings but grievance hearings too.

The grievance meeting should be used to clarify precisely what the grievance is and to get from the employee any specific details (dates of incidents, names of witnesses, etc). The employer should then carry out a full investigation and reach a conclusion. This may be that the grievance is well-founded, or alternatively, that it is partly well-founded. On the other hand it may be that the employer finds the grievance to be wholly unsubstantiated. The decision should be notified to the employee and if it is the case that the grievance is partly or wholly unsubstantiated, the employee should be allowed the right of appeal.

If the employee does appeal the decision, they should do so in writing. The employer should arrange an appeal meeting without unreasonably delay and inform the employee of the time and place in advance. As far as practicable, the appeal meeting should be chaired by a more senior manager than the one who dealt with the original grievance meeting.

The employer should inform the employee in writing as soon as possible of the outcome of the appeal. The written decision should also inform the employee whether the appeal meeting is the final stage of the grievance procedure or, as may be the case with some contractual procedures, if there is provision for a further appeal.

  • Encourage employees to try the informal route first;
  • Consider whether personal harassment procedure is more appropriate;
  • Do not delay unreasonably in any part of the procedure;
  • Remain impartial when considering evidence;
  • Stick to your contractual procedures.

By Nicola Mullineux

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