Raising a grievance at work
Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employer. There is no legally binding process that you and your employer must follow when raising or handling a grievance at work. However, there are some principles you and your employer should observe. Find out what they are.
The Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures
There is an Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (the Code). It sets out principles that you and your employer should follow to achieve a reasonable standard of behaviour in handling grievances.
Try to sort out your problem informally
Try talking with your employer informally before raising a formal grievance, to see if that helps.
Problems you might want to raise with your employer could involve:
- your terms of employment
- your pay and working conditions
- disagreements with co-workers
- not getting your statutory employment rights
How to raise a grievance
If you tried to resolve your grievance informally and this approach did not work, you should raise the matter formally. You should do this using your employers formal procedures for grievances.
Your employer should put their grievance procedures in writing. You should be able to find these in one of the following:
- company handbook
- human resources (HR) or personnel manual
- HR intranet site
- employment contract
At the very least your employer must give you in writing the name of the person that you can apply to, to seek redress (put the matter right).
To comply with the Code, your employers grievance procedure is likely to include the following steps:
- writing a letter to your employer setting out the details of your grievance
- a meeting with your employer to discuss the issue
- the ability to appeal your employer's decision
Further advice can be found in 'Discipline and grievances at work. The Acas guide' which helps employers and employees:
- understand the Code
- reflect it in their procedures and behaviour
It is not part of the Code.
Writing to your employer
As soon as you believe you have a grievance, you should write to your employer giving them details of your grievance. You may find it helpful to say in your letter how you would like your employer to resolve the problem. You should make sure your letter is dated and that you keep a copy.
Meeting with your employer
Your employer should arrange an initial meeting at a reasonable time and place to discuss your grievance. You should make every effort to attend the meeting.
Gather your thoughts before the meeting. Don't be afraid to write down what you want to say - there is nothing wrong with reading this out at the meeting.
It is up to your employer to decide how the meeting will run. They will normally go through the issues that have been raised and give you the opportunity to comment. The main purpose of the meeting should be to:
- establish the facts
- find a way to resolve the problem
If at the meeting it appears that further investigation is needed, your employer should consider pausing the meeting and arrange to finish it at a later date.
You have a statutory (legal) right to take a companion to the meeting with you. To exercise this right, you must make a request to your employer that someone comes with you.Your companion may be:
- a colleague
- a trade union representative
- a trade union official
If no colleague can accompany you, and you are not a trade union member, ask if you can bring a family member or a Citizens Advice Bureau worker. Your employer does not have to agree to this unless your employment contract says that they must. However, it can still be worth asking and explaining why you feel it would be helpful.
The companion can:
- present and/or sum up your case
- speak on your behalf
- speak to you during the hearing
However, your companion cannot answer questions on your behalf. They are protected from unfair dismissal or other mistreatment for supporting you.
After the meeting your employer should, without unreasonable delay, write to you with their decision. They should set out, where appropriate, what action they intend to take to resolve the grievance.
Northern Ireland has its own dispute resolution procedures. You can find out more information on these from the nidirect website.
Where to get help
Acas offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.
If you are a member of a trade union you can get help, advice and support from them.
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