Understanding the grievance process is crucial if you wish to successfully raise a grievance with your employer. If you have tried raising a matter verbally or informally in writing, and there is still no resolution, then, subject to the points mentioned above, it’s time to consider instigating a formal written grievance process.
Often, taking this serious step may mean that you have already decided to leave your job. Or perhaps you just want to record the fact that you have been mistreated and wish to seek a resolution in the workplace.
The difference between submitting a formal grievance and an informal email may be quite a small difference. On paper, they would both set out your complaint – but there is a big difference in practice. This is because the ACAS code of practice sets out a procedure which employers should follow upon receipt of a grievance letter.
What is the correct procedure that employers (and you) should follow when an employee raises a grievance?
1. Grievance Letter
As the employee, you should submit your written grievance. Our ‘How to write a grievance letter’ article sets out how to structure your letter and our grievance template letter section allows you download examples.
You will be invited to a meeting, and given the chance to bring a colleague or a union rep. 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 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, including Without Prejudice meetings.
3. 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.
4. 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 of it, 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.
A meeting will then be held to discuss the points of your appeal and identify if any further investigation is warranted.
Your employer will write to you giving you a final outcome to your appeal. This is normally the final decision and there is no further right of appeal. 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 such a claim.
There is an appeal letter template available to download in the grievance letter template section of the website.
5. Grievance appeal meeting
As for point 2. above.
6. Grievance appeal outcome
As for point 3. above.
7. Next steps
Issue tribunal proceedings on form ET1 (Employment Tribunal Form).
Top 3 Tips
- Always put your grievance in writing using numbered paragraphs
- Take detailed notes at the meeting
- Be prepared to appeal – 99% of grievances are dismissed by the employer
There are several advantages to engaging in the grievance process rather than just resigning
1. It is a chance for your employer to suggest a settlement agreement
During the grievance procedure is the perfect opportunity for your employer to offer you a settlement agreement. They will be forced to think about your case at the time, and will not want to spend unnecessary hours doing unproductive grievance hearings.
In addition, they probably don’t really want employees who put in grievances as it could affect the rest of the work force. What better timing for them to offer you a settlement agreement?
2. It allows you to set the record straight
When the letters go back and forth, it makes both sides think about exactly what has happened and set out their explanation for it. So your employer will have to nail their colours to the mast.
This could prove very useful later on in the tribunal itself. It also gives you the formal opportunity to have your questions answered in writing rather than being fobbed off in endless meetings.
3. You could be awarded compensation
If you do go to tribunal and win, the tribunal can award you additional compensation if your employer has failed to follow the grievance process correctly.
Similarly, if you have failed to follow it then your compensation can be reduced. The range of possible adjustment is 0-25%.
4. It could help you prove procedural unfair dismissal
If you are dismissed, it will help you to prove a claim for unfair dismissal if you can show that the proper procedure was not followed, so by doing this now you are helping yourself later on. The better the chance you have at tribunal, the more likely it is that you will be offered a decent settlement agreement (whether or not you actually have any intention of going to tribunal).