How to raise a grievance at work and negotiate an exit package

How to conduct a successful grievance

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 clear as possible with the complaints that you are making. 

Top 3 Tips

  1. Remember to specify who, when, how and what
  2. Do not mention compensation
  3. Do not mention tribunals

Your letter should be as concise as you are able to make it. Do not submit a 30-page letter setting out everything that’s happened to you in the last two years, instead, focus on the issues that you are raising which support your main legal arguments.



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.

Introductory paragraph(s)

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 and explain that this letter is a last resort. This will put you in a good light with your employer.

Employers don’t like 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 management or HR, rather than at you. This is important as you are seeking to persuade your employer that you have been treated badly, which is a crucial step in attempting to negotiate a settlement.

Summarise the issues you are raising

You should next set out the events that relate to your grievance. Try and do this using as few words as possible, but also enough words to convey the facts of the situation. Use numbers for each incident, as this forces  your employer to investigate and then respond using your numbering, rather than just omitting to answer certain points (which will happen if you don’t number your points).

Try to keep a professional tone and do not make inflammatory allegations unsupported by the facts, in extreme cases that can even leave you vulnerable to disciplinary action. Try and refer to evidence if possible 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, If your intention is to remain in employment you should then suggest a resolution. If your intention by raising a grievance is to commence without prejudice negotiations simultaneously, 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 form  (that’s your employment tribunal claim form) an employer will see this and it should give you more negotiating power in settlement discussions.

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 could take notes if they are good at note-taking. 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 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. It sounds silly but in the heat of a grievance meeting notes may become a distraction, you may forget to keep on writing everything down or your handwriting may become illegible. Have a go at writing really quickly and see if for example capital letters are easier for you to read back afterwards.

We recommend writing people’s initials in the margin to indicate who is speaking as there will inevitably be more than one person present. Include times in the margin every now and then, especially if it is going to be a long meeting. One particularly helpful tip is to refer to the numbered paragraphs which you used in your grievance letter. That way it saves you writing down the subject of each part of the discussion. You can just write ‘1’ for example.

Outcome letter

Shortly after your meeting your employer will send you an outcome letter (99% of the time a grievance is dismissed). This letter should outline your right to appeal. It should set out why your grievance was not upheld. This commits your employer to state in writing their reasons for dismissing your grievance, this is an advantage as later on they are unable to change their story.

A clever employer will sometimes uphold part of your grievance, but you will find that overall the more serious allegations are not upheld. This will enable your employer 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 or 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.

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
  • Take detailed notes at the meeting
  • Be prepared to appeal – 99% of grievances are dismissed by the employer


Next steps

If you want to talk to us about your work situation, including your next steps and whether you deserve a better deal, just get in touch on 020 7717 5259 or request a free 15 minute consultation, no obligation.