This guide outlines what you can expect to happen at a grievance meeting after you have ‘raised a grievance’ (ie made a formal complaint) about a serious issue affecting you at work.
It gives you lots of useful tips on how to prepare for a grievance meeting, what to do and say at the event and how to behave.
See our overview guide on grievances at work for more about what a grievance is and when you might want to raise one.
What is a grievance meeting or hearing?
So, your attempts to resolve your grievance informally have failed and you have raised a formal grievance by sending a formal letter outlining your complaint (see our article on how to write a grievance and examples).
Shortly afterwards, your employer should write back inviting you to a meeting to discuss your letter. This is what’s usually referred to as a grievance meeting and sometimes also as a grievance hearing.
You should get your employer’s written invitation a ‘reasonable’ length of time after your letter has been submitted. (The ACAS code on grievance procedures suggests 5 working days from the employer’s receipt of your grievance letter to the meeting taking place.)
If your employer is late in replying, then write to them – by email or letter – and draw their attention to their obligations under the ACAS code.
Who attends a grievance meeting?
Your employer should mention in their written invitation that you can take a companion, who may be a colleague or a union representative, to this grievance hearing and we recommend that you take up that opportunity.
Your companion can take notes (see below), speak to you, and speak on your behalf if you want them to, although they are not permitted to answer questions which are specifically directed at you as the person who’s raised the grievance.
From your employer’s side, the event will probably be attended by a senior manager who has been assigned to investigate your grievance, an HR person, and possibly another person to take notes if the HR person doesn’t.
What happens at the grievance meeting?
A grievance hearing is not intended to be an adversarial event, which is why lawyers are not in attendance.
It is an opportunity for you to talk through your grievance, raising all your concerns. Your employer is likely to have some questions for you to help them understand what your complaint is. You might also have some questions for them about their treatment of you.
Grievance meeting procedure
A typical grievance meeting might go something like this:
1. The senior manager leading the grievance meeting will introduce everyone present and explain that this is a formal meeting, the main purpose of which is to give you an opportunity to amplify your written grievance so that your employer may fully understand it.
2. You will be invited to speak about the main issues outlined in your written grievance, to share any further written evidence and to outline what you would like done to resolve the problem. See section below on ‘What should I say and do at a grievance meeting’ for more on this.
3. If you have any witnesses who have provided statements, then those statements can also be discussed at this meeting.
4. Your employer’s representatives will want to seek clarification on some points and to ask further questions about related matters.
5. The senior manager leading the meeting will close it when they believe that you have been given a fair opportunity to outline your grievance and that it has been fully understood by everyone present.
Importance of taking notes at your grievance meeting
The importance of taking notes when you are at your grievance hearing can’t be over emphasised. You should make sure that you take your own notes, in as much detail as possible. Your colleague/union representative could also take notes if they are any good at note-taking. Here are some practical tips on how to go about taking such 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 and by the time you reach a tribunal hearing both sides will have completely different recollections of what was said at the meeting.
- This advice applies to any type of meeting. Note-taking is a serious skill which lawyers are trained in for years. 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.
What happens after the grievance meeting?
After the meeting your employer should consider everything that you have said as well as the written grievance letter. They should then respond to your grievance in writing within a reasonable period.
If the grievance is not upheld, then your employer must make clear that you have the right to appeal against the decision.
Top TipsGarvey Hanchard
Take a companion to the meeting to ensure you record the exchange accurately
Don’t discuss settlement during the meeting – there is another time and place for this
Keep calm, remain polite and answer all questions honestly
What should I do and say at a grievance meeting?
To round off this article, we offer you a summary of what to do and what not to do at a grievance meeting:
Remember all these tips and you will have a successful grievance meeting with your employer!