How to conduct a successful grievance
TOP 3 TIPS
- Remember to specify who, when, how and what
- Don’t mention compensation
- Don’t mention tribunals
The grievance letter is the most important part of the entire grievance procedure. It must be written carefully, in neutral language and set out, as far as possible, the complaints that you are making. It should also be as concise as you are able to make it. Don’t submit a 30-page letter setting out everything that’s happened to you in the last two years, focus instead on the complaints that you are making.
Locate your employer’s grievance procedure
The first thing you need to do is find your employer’s grievance procedure. It should be readily available on the internal intranet or sometimes even in paper copy. The procedure will tell you to whom your letter should be addressed, which is an important piece of information to have.
Include the words Formal Grievance in the letter heading
Once you know to whom the letter is to be written, you should head it like any other formal letter you would send, except you should include the words “Formal Grievance” as the heading.
In your introduction, you should be conciliatory. Explain that you regret having to raise a formal grievance, but you felt like you had no other option. Set out the attempts you have made to resolve the issues you will refer to informally and explain that this letter is a last resort. This will put you in a good light with your employer.
Employers hate it when employees raise grievances for no reason as it causes disruption and takes up management time. However, if you explain how you have been left no option, then your employer’s frustration will often be directed at your management, or HR, rather than at you. This is important as you are seeking to persuade your employer that you have been badly treated, and this is a crucial step in attempting to negotiate a settlement.
Summarise what you are complaining about
You should next set out the events that you are complaining about. Try and do this using as few words as possible, but also enough words to convey the facts of the situation. Use bullet points or numbers for each incident as this enables your employer to investigate and then respond in kind.
Try not to be overly dramatic and certainly never make allegations that you know or suspect to be untrue, as that can leave you vulnerable to disciplinary action. Try and refer to evidence if possible (see chapter 5 on Building a Case for how to do this) and also give your employer the information they need to investigate incidents: this could be times, dates, details of emails etc.
Set out exactly the behaviour of your employer that you wish to complain about, in chronological order, giving as many facts as possible. In employment law, the key facts would be:
- Who – Who was present?
- When – State the time and date
- How – Was this in a meeting, an email or a phone call?
- What – What was said or done? Describe the event.
Only suggest a resolution if you want to remain in employment
To conclude, you should then suggest a resolution if your intention is to remain in employment. If your intention by raising a grievance is to commence without prejudice negotiations concurrently, then do not suggest a resolution as you will do that in your without prejudice correspondence. Instead, explain to your employer that you feel badly treated and let down and will have to consider your options.
The importance of a good grievance letter
How to write a grievance letter to your employer is an important skill. It is not only important for getting things off your chest, but also for giving you the maximum chance of entering into a settlement agreement and receiving sufficient payment to tide you over until you find a new job. Writing a good grievance letter can also form the basis for drafting your ’ET1’ (that’s your employment tribunal claim form, as explained in chapter 10).
Attending a grievance meeting
After you have sent your grievance letter, you will be invited to a meeting and given the chance to bring a colleague or a union representative. This is supposed to happen a reasonable length of time after the grievance letter is submitted. If your employer is delaying, then send them an email or letter reminding them of their duty under the ACAS code.
This meeting will probably be attended by a manager and an HR person who will take notes. You should make sure that you take your own notes, in as much detail as possible, or preferably your colleague should take notes. As soon as possible after the meeting, type your notes up, adding any detail which you remember. Then send a copy of your notes to your employer’s HR person inviting them to comment.
Anything which is not written down will inevitably become lost in the sands of time and by the time you reach a tribunal hearing both sides will have completely different recollections of what was said at any given meeting. This advice applies to any type of meeting.
Your employer will send you an outcome letter (99% of the time this will dismiss your grievance). Again, this should be within a reasonable amount of time after the meeting. This letter should outline your right to appeal. It is supposed to set out why your grievance was not upheld. This has the advantage of committing your employer to state their reasons for dismissing your grievance at this stage, so later on they can’t change their story too much.
A clever employer will sometimes uphold part of your grievance, but find that overall the more serious allegations are not upheld. This will enable them to claim that they acted fairly overall and gave it due consideration. If you believe that your employer has failed to uphold the serious parts of your grievance despite there being evidence to do so, then you must appeal.
Grievance appeal letter
You can normally appeal to higher management / a different boss (so long as your company is big enough). This grievance appeal letter is similar to the initial grievance letter, but is your chance to comment on the Outcome letter.
You should focus on why you believe the decision to reject your grievance, or part thereof, was incorrect and focus on the evidence supporting your points. Your appeal should refer to the outcome letter and focus on the decision, rather than attempting to have the case heard again. However, if your employer has failed to respond to any part of your grievance in the outcome letter, then you should raise this in your appeal letter.
Grievance appeal meeting
A meeting will then be held to discuss the points of your appeal and identify if any further investigation is warranted.
Grievance appeal outcome
Your employer will write to you giving you a final outcome to your appeal. This is the final decision and there is no right of appeal further. If you believe that the decision is unfair or unjustified then you can either commence without prejudice discussions, or you can look into making a claim at an employment tribunal if you have grounds for a claim.
TOP 3 TIPS
- Always put your grievance in writing
- Attend a meeting
- Be prepared to appeal – 99% of grievances are dismissed by the employer