Grievance meetings: dos and don’ts

Attending the meeting

After you have sent your grievance letter, you should  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  your colleague could take notes if they are any 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. 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.

When does a grievance meeting occur?

After you have submitted your grievance, your employer should write to you inviting you to a meeting to discuss it. You must be given the opportunity to bring a colleague or a union rep. The meeting is supposed to happen a reasonable length of time after the grievance letter is submitted. If you have not yet submitted a grievance letter, we have provided some grievance letter examples which you can adapt to your own situation.

If your employer is delaying, then send them an email reminding them of their duty under the ACAS code.

Two women and a man in a meeting

Top 3 TIPS

  1. Take a companion to the meeting to ensure you record the exchange accurately
  2. Don’t discuss settlement during the meeting – there is another time and place for this
  3. Keep calm, remain polite and answer all questions honestly

Who attends a grievance meeting?

The meeting will probably be attended by a manager and an HR person who should take notes. You should also keep your own clear records of what is said.

The meeting is not intended to be adversarial 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 complaints are. You might also have some questions for them about their treatment of you.

What happens after the 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.

Here are our tips for how to approach a grievance meeting:

DO be prepared

Make sure that you have read through your grievance before you attend the meeting as you will need to talk to it at the meeting. If you have any supporting statements from colleagues who can back up what you say then take these to the meeting, or better still send them to your employer in advance. If you have any documents which you wish to rely on and which your employer has not already seen, you should also send these in advance.

DO take notes

Even if HR are taking notes, you should make sure that you take your own notes in as much detail as possible. Alternatively, and preferably, your colleague could take notes. As soon as possible after the meeting, type your notes up, adding any detail that 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 may be forgotten by the time you reach a tribunal hearing as both sides may have completely different recollections of what was said at any given meeting.

DO remain calm

Understandably emotions can run high in grievance meetings – a lot can be at stake and your employer’s treatment of you was probably very upsetting. Try to remain calm in the meeting though as this will help you to answer any questions coherently and think logically. A good tip is to make sure you take a bottle of water in with you. If you feel yourself getting emotional then a sip of water and a deep breath can make all the difference.

DO answer any questions honestly

Don’t try and second guess why an employer is asking a particular question – just answer calmly, truthfully and honestly. If you take any other approach, then you could get into difficulties down the line particularly if there are inconsistencies in your account or if you end up being cross examined in an Employment Tribunal – this could affect your credibility.

DO take a companion if possible

It useful to take a companion with you to the meeting. From a psychological point of view it can be very helpful for you to feel like you have someone on your side and supporting you. Your companion is not there to make long statements on your behalf or interrogate your employer. But they are there to support you, to help clarify anything, to make sure that the hearing is being conducted fairly and to take notes as well!

Don’t try to enter into settlement negotiations during the grievance

Although a grievance meeting is confidential, if you end up going to an Employment Tribunal then the notes from the meeting can be used in evidence. If you start asking for settlement money in the meeting then it might look like you are not actually interested in resolving the issues. Whilst settlement might be your main objective, you don’t necessarily want a Tribunal to know this. Therefore if the issue of settlement does arise then tell your employer that you would be happy to talk about this but would prefer it to be part of a separate ‘without prejudice’ (in other words, off the record) discussion.

Don’t lose your temper

As set out above, it is really important to remain calm. Lots of people do get tearful in grievance meetings and that is completely understandable. However, don’t lose your temper, get angry or shout as this could reflect extremely badly on you.

Don’t secretly record the meeting

Be wary about secretly recording a meeting with your employer – if you do and your employer finds out about it then you could end up being sacked for gross misconduct. If you would like to record the meeting, then ask your employer for permission first. Give your employer reasons, for example that you don’t have a companion to take a note, that you are dyslexic so might find it difficult to take a note yourself etc.

Don’t forget to appeal

If your grievance is not upheld then it is very important that you appeal, even if you don’t think that you will be successful. This shows that you are serious about taking the issues further, which could assist with settlement. In addition, if you fail to appeal but are later successful in an Employment Tribunal claim, the Tribunal could reduce any compensation awarded to you by up to 25%.

Remember all these tips and you will have a successful meeting with your employer! You can also read our related article – Survival Tips for Negotiating Whilst Employed.

Stack of paperwork

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Next steps

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