13 August 2023

Dealing with Grievances

A grievance is a formal way for an employee to raise an issue, complaint or problem with their employer.

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A grievance is a formal way for an employee to raise an issue, complaint or problem with their employer. It is usual for employees to raise any issues they may be experiencing informally before resorting to the formal process, which can mean that tensions are already running high when the process is commenced. However, a grievance procedure should be viewed as a way of resolving such issues. 

Step 1: check your company’s handbook 

The first step when receiving a grievance from an employee is to check your company’s handbook to see whether you have a grievance procedure. If you do, you will need to follow the same procedure. It is not uncommon for employers not to have a formal procedure. If you do not, you can consult the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary grievance procedures. Even if you do have a written grievance procedure, you may still wish to consult the ACAS Code of Practice. This provides for a minimum standard. If your grievance procedure does not meet this then this could negatively impact on you, should the employees issue result in a claim in the employment tribunal. 

Step 2: arrange a meeting with your employee 

Once a grievance has been received from your employee, you should arrange a meeting with them. It is best practice for this meeting to be face to face, however you may consider that an online meeting will be better in the circumstances. You should consider each individual fact, if an employee is off sick with stress for example, it may be better to offer them either a face to face or an online meeting. 

Your employee is entitled to bring a companion to the meeting. This can either be a trade union representative or a colleague. If your employee wishes to bring someone who is not a trade union representative or a colleague, you can agree to this however you are not obliged to do so. 

Step 3: discuss the grievance  

At the meeting, you should discuss the grievance with your employee and ask them to clarify on any matters that you require more information on. You will then need to decide what action needs to be taken. This could mean that you need to complete an investigation. If the grievance is about a specific person, you may wish to consider disciplinary action. You should inform your employee of what action is to be taken. 

Step 4: write to your employee 

Once the action has been completed, you should write to your employee to confirm the outcome. This may be that the grievance is not upheld, or it may be that you are upholding the grievance and will be taking further action. Your employee should be given the opportunity to appeal any decision that you make and you should confirm to them their right to do so in your letter, advising them of the result of their grievance. 

Step 5: review the appeal 

A different person should review the appeal and should look at the initial process and the results of the grievance. It is good practice to have a further meeting to discuss the appeal and the results of the appeal should be given to the employee in writing. 

Grievance during a disciplinary process 

In some instances an employee may raise a grievance during a disciplinary process. In such circumstances, it is not unusual for the disciplinary process to be paused while the grievance is being dealt with. In circumstances where the grievance and the disciplinary are linked to the same complaint or event, then you can deal with both at the same time.  

Do you need more support on dealing with grievances?

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Nicole Gibbs

Senior Associate (Solicitor)