Respond to a grievance
What is a grievance?
Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers. It is a legal requirement to have a written grievance procedure for your organisation. This guide explains how to deal with grievances in accordance with the Code of Practice. Issues that may cause grievances include:
* terms and conditions of employment
* health and safety
* work relations
* bullying and harassment
* new working practices
* working environment
* organisational change
Follow the correct procedure
When responding to a grievance, it is important to follow the correct legal process. ACAS has put together a Code of Practice which details how grievances should be handled. If you do not adhere to the process recommended in the Code of Practice, it will count against you if an employee later makes a tribunal claim.
The key principles of the Code of Practice are that:
* Employers and employees should raise and deal with issues promptly and should not unreasonably delay meetings, decisions or confirmation of those decisions.
* Employers and employees should act consistently.
* Employers should carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case.
* Employers should inform employees of the basis of the problem and give them an opportunity to put their case in response before any decisions are made.
* Employers should allow employees to be accompanied at any formal grievance meeting.
* Employers should allow an employee to appeal against any formal decision made.
Aim to resolve the grievance informally
Employees should, wherever possible, aim to settle most grievances informally with their manager. Many problems can be raised and settled during the course of everyday working relationships. This also allows for problems to be settled quickly.
If the grievance cannot be resolved informally, or it is of a serious nature, then the employee may raise a formal grievance. The remainder of this guide explains how to deal with a formal grievance.
Dealing with a formal grievance
To raise a formal grievance, the employee should set out the nature of their grievance in writing to their manager. They should stick to the facts and avoid language that is insulting or abusive. Where their grievance is against their manager and they feel unable to approach him or her, they should talk to another manager or a director / owner.
The employee’s letter should include the following information:
* Full name and date;
* summary of complaint(s);
* details and copies of any supporting evidence (including witnesses);
* details of any steps they have taken to resolve matters; and
* what resolution they would like.
Holding a grievance meeting
You should arrange for a formal meeting to be held without unreasonable delay after a grievance is received, ideally within 5 working days.
Preparing for the meeting
* Arrange for the meeting to be held in private where there will not be interruptions.
* Consider arranging for someone who is not involved in the case. to take a note of the meeting and to act as a witness to what was said
* Consider whether similar grievances have been raised before, how they have been resolved, and any follow-up action that has been necessary. This allows consistency of treatment.
* Consider whether any reasonable adjustments are necessary for a person who is disabled and/or their companion.
* Inform the employee of when and where the meeting is to be held, who will hear the grievance and of their right to be accompanied (see below). It is advisable to put this in writing.
Right to be accompanied at the meeting
Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied by a companion at a grievance meeting which deals with a complaint about a ‘duty owed by the employer to the worker’. So this would apply where the complaint is, for example, that the employer is not honouring the worker’s contract, or is in breach of legislation. It is generally good practice, however, to allow workers to be accompanied at a formal grievance meeting even when the statutory right does not apply, as stated in our template grievance procedure.
The chosen companion may be a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union.
Any requests to be accompanied must be ‘reasonable’. For example, it would not normally be reasonable for employees to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing. Nor would it be reasonable to ask to be accompanied by a companion from a remote geographical location if someone suitable and willing was available on site.
The companion should be allowed to address the hearing to put and sum up the employee’s case, respond on behalf of the employee to any views expressed at the meeting and confer with the employee during the hearing. The companion does not, however, have the right to answer questions on the employee’s behalf, address the hearing if the employee does not wish it or prevent the employer from explaining their case.
At the meeting
A grievance meeting is not the same as a disciplinary meeting, and is an occasion when discussion and dialogue may lead to an amicable solution. Therefore try to keep the atmosphere as relaxed and open as possible.
Grievances can sometimes be taken as personal criticism – be aware of this and try to hear any grievance in a calm and objective manner, being as fair to the employee as possible in the resolution of the problem.
Below is a suggested structure for the meeting:
* Introduce those present to the employee and explain why they are there.
* Introduce and explain the role of the accompanying person if present.
* Remind all attendees at the meeting that the grievance process is confidential.
* Invite the employee to explain their grievance, including any evidence, and how they would like to see it resolved.
* Make allowances for any reasonable ‘letting off steam’ if the employee is under stress. Be aware that the employee may have been holding the grievance for a long time.
* Ask open questions to gather information, including dates of events, key facts, who was involved, where events took place, who else was present etc.
* Sum up the main points.
* Tell the employee when they might reasonably expect a response if one cannot be made at the time, bearing in mind the time limits set out in the organisation’s grievance procedure.
* If new facts were presented, explain that investigations will be carried out into these.
It is generally good practice to adjourn a meeting before a decision is taken about how to deal with an employee’s grievance. This allows time for reflection and proper consideration. It also allows for any further checking of any matters raised.
Decide on appropriate action
After the meeting, and after carrying out any necessary investigation, you should decide on what action, if any, to take. You should communicate this decision to the employee without unreasonable delay (normally within 5 working days) and confirm it in writing. The written notification should specify:
* What action (if any) you intend to take to resolve the grievance.
* Where an employee’s grievance is not upheld, carefully explain the reasons.
* That they can appeal if they are not content with the action taken.
Bear in mind that actions taken to resolve a grievance may have an impact on other individuals, who may also feel aggrieved.
If the grievance highlights any issues concerning policies, procedures or conduct (even if not sufficiently serious to merit separate disciplinary procedures) they should be addressed as soon as possible.
Ensure any action taken is monitored and reviewed, as appropriate, so that it deals effectively with the issues.
Allow an opportunity to appeal
Where an employee feels that their grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved they have the right to appeal. They should let you know the grounds for their appeal in writing within the time-frame set out in your grievance procedure.
You will then need to arrange an appeal meeting, again within the time-frame set out in your grievance procedure. Within 5 working days is recommended.
The appeal should be dealt with impartially and wherever possible by a more senior manager than the one who dealt with the original grievance. If there is no more senior manager available, another manager should, if possible, hear the appeal. If this is not possible consider whether the owner or a director should hear the appeal.
Before the appeal meeting, you should inform the employee of when and where it is to be held, who will hear the appeal and of their right to be accompanied. It is advisable to put this in writing.
Hold the meeting in a place which will be free from interruptions. Make sure the relevant records and notes of the original meeting are available for all concerned.
The appeal meeting
Below is a suggested structure for the appeal meeting:
* Explain the purpose of the meeting, how it will be conducted, introduce those present and explain their roles at the meeting.
* Ask the employee to explain why he or she is appealing.
* Pay particular attention to any new evidence or facts that have come to light, and ensure the employee has the opportunity to comment on them.
* Once the relevant issues have been thoroughly explored, summarise the facts and adjourn the meeting to consider the decision.
After the appeal meeting, you should inform the employee of the results of the appeal and the reasons for the decision and confirm it in writing. Make it clear that this decision is final.