Grievance Procedures: Managing Employees’ Concerns Competently

Recently, we have been contacted by several clients who have received grievance letters from their employees. On the flip side, we have also been contacted directly by employees who are willing to pay an expert in order to put together a case in order to claim against their employers. Therefore, we are advising our clients to take as many appropriate steps in order to safeguard their businesses from potential claims.

A ‘grievance’ being raised in a workplace is essentially the opposite than a ‘disciplinary’, and involves the employee raising an issue to the employer. Public misconception has many believe that it is simply a complaint against another member of staff, but this is not always the case – it may relate to harassment, unlawful practice, ineffective procedures, unethical conduct, or even whistleblowing.

There are legal obligations that employers must meet in dealing with grievances and so it is critical that a grievance procedure is set out and well-managed in practice by businesses of all sizes.

What do Employers HAVE to do with Grievances?

All employers must, by law, have a clearly written Grievance Policy and Procedure that is available upon request to all employees. This doesn’t need to be included in an employment contract (although may be mentioned) but is often found in a staff handbook or central organisation policy resource centre.

The Grievance Procedure must include:

- Who employees are to contact with details of their grievance, and how to (as well as an escalation or back-up contact, in case the initial contact is compromised or involved in any way)

- Confirmation that if the grievance can’t be resolved informally, that a formal grievance hearing meeting will be held

- Agreed time limits for each stage of the grievance process

- Confirmation that employees are able to be accompanied by either a colleague or relevant trade union representative in all meetings

- Information on how to appeal the final grievance decision

- A brief outline on how the grievance procedure interacts with the disciplinary procedure (ie. if one results in the other or if the employee raising it is going through a disciplinary procedure).

What don’t have Employers have to do with Grievances, but is considered Best Practice?

The ACAS Code of Conduct on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures is not legally binding but is considered industry best practice. Their guidelines lay out a simple approach to grievances that remains fair and considerate of all parties involved and can be adapted to fit a company’s individual business requirements.

It is also considered best practice to respond to a grievance raised by an employee even if it is raised informally. Ideally, most grievances will be resolved entirely at this stage and so will never escalate to formal proceedings, so taking complaints seriously as early as possible is very important. An informal meeting or chat with decent two-way dialogue can help curb any concerns before they require formal intervention.

What else should Employers Be Doing?

Grievances should be respected as much as any other communications with employees and always taken seriously. Maintaining a clear and honest relationship with employees on business policies, decisions and expectations can help foster a culture that weeds out issues before they begin. Whilst it’s unlikely businesses will ever be able to avoid grievances entirely, it’s important that they stay open-minded toward any proposed changes and accepting of constructive criticism in order to help develop and grow the company.

Should you have a particularly intricate or awkward grievance, need help setting out a grievance procedure or think yours needs a revamp, we can help you navigate the process further. Just get in touch by calling 01327 640070 or email us at for jargon free HR support when you need it the most.