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A grievance is a problem that an employee has with their employer. It can be a complaint about something happening to you, or a wider issue about how the business is being run. Grievances are often about pay, discrimination, harassment or working hours. The grievance process is a formal way of bringing up a problem with your employer and asking them to fix it.

Problems at work can have a huge impact on your life. In our experience, just talking the situation through in confidence with someone independent can help you sort it out. Our advisors have lots of experience helping people in these types of situations and we will always try and find practical solutions to your problems so you do not have to use formal legal processes.

The ACAS Code sets out the basic steps that you and your employer need to take in a grievance process. You can read more about the Code here. The Code is a document drawn up by ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service),a government funded body tasked with helping to settle and prevent employment disputes. If you or your employers do not comply with the ACAS Code, it can affect the amount of compensation you get if you win an Employment Tribunal claim.

Grievance processes can differ between employers, but should all include these basic steps:

  • An informal discussion about the problem, to try and fix it without the need for a formal process, unless the issue is too serious to deal with informally.
  • You write to the employer telling them you want to raise a grievance and what the problem is.
  • Your employer investigates the issue. Part of the investigation may be meeting with you to hear what you have to say.
  • A grievance meeting where you and your employer meet to discuss the problem. You have the right to take a Trade Union Representative or a colleague to the meeting.
  • Your employer lets you know the outcome of the grievance. They might do this in person or write you a letter.
  • If you do not agree with your employer’s decision, you can ask them to reconsider. This is called appealing the grievance decision. Your employer should make you aware of this right and tell you how to appeal.

Consequences of raising a grievance

You employer shouldn’t treat you badly or dismiss you because you have made a complaint (unless you are raising a grievance for malicious reasons), but you still need to think through how raising a grievance might effect your job and career. Our experienced advisors can help you weigh up the consequences of raising a grievance and guide you through the grievance process.

Whistleblowing (Public Interest Disclosure).

Sometimes you need to raise something very serious with your employer. If your complaint is to do with something in the public interest, like environmental damage or criminal activity or health and safety issues, you could be a whistle blower and the law gives you some extra protection. The law expects you to tell your employer first and give them a chance to fix it before you go outside the organisation, unless there is a very good reason not to. For example; you think they will destroy evidence or telling them may put you in danger. If your employer won’t fix the problem or you can’t tell them, there is a list of prescribed bodies and people that you can tell.

Supporting someone who has raised a grievance

A colleague might ask you to support them as their representative through the grievance process. Your employer shouldn’t treat you badly or differently because you have supported a colleague in this way, unless you have behaved maliciously or unreasonably.

If you have any concerns about supporting a colleague with a grievance, or giving evidence in a grievance or disciplinary matter we can help you decide what to do and make sure you know your rights.


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