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Grievance letters and how to write them, plus letter templates & examples
This guide explains in detail how to write a formal grievance letter (or complaint) to your employer about an aspect of your UK employment. It should be read in conjunction with our main guide on grievances at work, unless you are already familiar with why, when and how to ‘raise a grievance’.
This guide covers:
- What is a formal written grievance?
- The importance of a good grievance letter (or email)
- How to write an effective grievance letter: 5 steps
- Step 1: Locate your employer’s grievance procedure
- Step 2: Include the words Formal Grievance in the letter heading
- Step 3: Grievance letter introductory paragraph(s)
- Step 4: Summarise the issues you are raising in your grievance letter
- Step 5: Suggest a resolution if you want to remain employed
- Attending a grievance meeting
- Grievance outcome letter from your employer
- Grievance appeal letter from you to your employer
- Grievance appeal meeting
- Grievance appeal outcome letter from your employer
What is a formal written grievance?
A formal grievance is a complaint to your employer about a serious issue which is likely significantly to affect your ability to do your job. It is much more important than simply complaining about something which annoys you, but which is relatively trivial and could easily be resolved informally.
A formal grievance sets in motion a whole range of actions that your employer must take in order to investigate and put right your grievance. It will cost your employer staff time and resources which could otherwise be put to good use elsewhere, so is not always welcomed.
You need to communicate your grievance to your employer in a letter or email (see below). This process is called ‘raising a grievance’ and your written formal grievance is key to a successful outcome.
The importance of a good grievance letter (or email)
How to write an effective formal grievance letter to your employer is an important skill. It is not only important for clarifying the complaint you have about your work or working conditions (your grievance) , 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.
A 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.
A formal grievance letter can take the form of a conventional paper-based communication, a letter attached to an email, or an appropriately worded email.
Whatever form it takes, grievance letter writing is a science as well as an art. To be effective, your letter must be written carefully and in neutral language, as well as set out your complaints clearly and concisely.
Read this article to find out more about how to write a grievance, or go straight to our grievance letter templates and grievance letter examples listed at the end.
How to write an effective grievance letter: 5 steps
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.
Top TipsDippalli Naik
Remember to specify in your grievance letter: who, when, how and what
Do not mention compensation in your letter
Do not mention tribunals
Step 1: 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.
Step 2: 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.
Step 3: Grievance letter introductory paragraph(s)
In your grievance letter 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.
Step 4: Summarise the issues you are raising in your grievance letter
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.
Step 5: Suggest a resolution if you want to remain employed
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.
Attending a grievance meeting
After you have submitted your grievance letter, your employer should write inviting you to a meeting to discuss your letter and giving you an opportunity to take a colleague or a union representative with you. If your employer hasn’t responded to your grievance letter within a reasonable length of time, then send them an email or letter reminding them of their duty under the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
For further advice on how to plan for, and what to do at, a grievance meeting, see our article on grievance meetings
Grievance outcome letter from your employer
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 from you to your employer
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 letter from your employer
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 TipsGarvey Hanchard
Always put your grievance in writing
Take detailed notes at the meeting
Be prepared to appeal – 99% of grievances are dismissed by the employer
Grievance letter templates and grievance letter examples:
Below are 14 grievance letter templates and examples which we have adapted from old cases and present here for you to download for free:
Grievance appeal letter: Executive demoted & benefits changed
In response to an employer’s reply to a grievance, this is an example of an appeal letter after an employee was forced to resign.
Grievance letter: Appeal after fraud whistleblowing
This grievance appeal is with regards to an employee whom was victimised for whistleblowing that the company was overcharging customers.
Grievance letter: Flexible working discrimination
In order to look after her daughter, our client, a high-power banker requested a flexible working pattern. As she started working from home, she endured ostracising behaviour from his line manager which made her feel that she had no choice other than to negotiate a good settlement agreement to leave. This grievance letter is a key part of those negotiations.
Grievance letter: Constructive dismissal after TUPE transfer
This grievance letter is about a TUPE transfer, where our client’s employing company merged with another, and he was demoted. He also received rude emails, was bullied and threatened with a PIP (performance improvement plan). The employer's apparent aim was to force his resignation by managing him out: a good example of constructive dismissal.
Grievance letter: Made redundant after making complaint
Line manager at a bank was reported for entertaining clients in strip clubs. When an employee reported this, she was made redundant. This seemed like too much of a coincidence, and as we started to look through the redundancy and alerted them to possible claims of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, they were quick to offer a good settlement agreement.
Grievance letter: Off sick with depression and not given a pay rise
This grievance letter is for an employee of a large telecoms company who had to be taken off work due to depression. After she found that she was passed over for a pay raise the result of this letter was a decent pay-out for her.
Grievance letter: Executive demoted & benefits changed
In this example, the employee was a Director of a large building supplies company and he found his package of benefits was changed unilaterally. He had to quit and submit this grievance to get an excellent settlement package. Possible claims include constructive dismissal, breach of contract & disability discrimination.
Grievance letter: Sales person with commission cut
Without first conferring with him, our client, an English sales manager, had his commission restructured by an American Software Company. The client had the potential to claim for nationality discrimination, constructive dismissal and a breach of contract, and therefore, with this grievance successfully negotiated an exit package and a job to be lined up for him when he left.
Grievance letter: Bullied and discriminated against for depression
Our client’s working life was made difficult when he began to suffer depression. This grievance letter with a without prejudice letter sets out the amount of money our client requests for settlement negotiations.
Grievance letter: Suspended, back injury and equal pay
Our client suffered a back injury due to working too many hours, and therefore had to take time off. Consequently, he was demoted to an inferior role in which he was receiving less than his female counterparts rather than attempting to accommodate this injury. He was later suspended for breaching confidentiality when he attempted to discuss this with his colleagues.
Grievance appeal letter: Discrimination, bullying and constructive dismissal
Whilst on sick leave and in work, our client was bullied, harassed and discriminated against. She therefore raised a grievance and was very unhappy about the response.
Grievance appeal letter: Maternity leave, mishandled return, indirect sex discrimination
On return from maternity leave, it was expected that she worked full time, and no hand over of responsibilities had occurred. This had a detrimental effect on her family life. With the evidence she had of the failure of management to communicate with her and put adequate procedures in place to facilitate her return, she applied for a grievance on the grounds of indirect sex discrimination.
Grievance letter: Bullying and harassment
Due to long term workplace bullying, the client suffered various ill health issues and work-related stress which are detailed in this substantial grievance letter.
Grievance appeal letter: Changes to employment terms and conditions
Without consultation, our client’s job role had been changed. This gave rise to a grievance hearing, which was not upheld. Our client appealed this decision due to the lack of objectivity needed to make a just decision as to their involvement in the redeployment and management of the client’s team that the decision maker allowed with regards to variation of job roles.