The Grievance Procedure

When an employee feels like they have been wronged in some way by the Company / a fellow employee / their line manager, then the grievance procedure should be invoked. The grievance procedure is only relevant to current employees. This means that it is not meant to cover ex-employees or other status of workers.

The ACAS Code
There is no longer a statutory procedure setting out the necessary process that should be followed when dealing with employee complaints, however in its place there is now the ACAS code.  This code provides practical guidance to employers, employees and their representatives and sets out principles for handling disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace. Failure to comply by either the employee or the employer can see any Employment Tribunal compensatory award be increased / reduced by 25%. Many employers choose to have a grievance policy that reflects matters contained within the ACAS code. It is ill advised to include a contractual grievance process as sometimes an alternative structure is more appropriate.

For further information, read the ACAS's Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

Informal Complaints
Clearly, it would be preferable to deal with grievances informally, and, if they can be dealt with to the satisfaction of the employee in that manner, then this is an ideal outcome. It is therefore always worth exploring whether informal resolution could be pursued, though clearly, this will be inappropriate in some cases.

The Employee Should Raise a Grievance in Writing
A grievance can be any concern, problem or complaint that an employee raises with the employer. If a grievance cannot be resolved informally, the employee should raise it in writing with a manager (if the grievance concerns their line manager, the grievance should be raised with another manager).

Employees should be encouraged to provide as much detail as possible at this stage. Employees should be encouraged to consider and set out their preferred outcome of the grievance process. 

The Employer Should Hold a Meeting and Investigate the Complaint
Promptly on receipt of a grievance, the employee should be invited to a hearing of his/her grievance, which should provide the opportunity for the employee to explain their grievance to the employer’s understanding, including the nature and scope of their complaint, and to permit the employer to ask questions about the grievance.

Where possible, the person chairing the meeting should investigate matters in advance of the hearing. Any notes of an investigation should be presented to the employee in advance of the hearing, preferably with the invitation letter, so that the chairperson can ask for the employee’s comments on them. If this is not possible, the first grievance hearing can be used by the chairperson to clarify the basis of the grievance and identify the points that he or she will need to investigate. The chairperson could then adjourn the hearing whilst he or she investigates, provides notes of the investigations in advance of a reconvened hearing, and reconvene the hearing for the employee’s comments on the investigation.

The chairperson should keep full reports of his or her investigations, including notes of any investigatory interviews, and should provide these (unless there is a compelling reason not to) to the employee for comment (preferably in advance of the grievance hearing or reconvened hearing, as appropriate).

The Employee May Bring a Companion
An employee has a statutory right to bring a companion (a fellow worker or a trade union representative) to a grievance meeting.

The Employee has a Right of Appeal
The employer should inform the employee that they have a right of appeal when they communicate the decision. If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome, they should appeal in writing, specifying the grounds of their appeal. The appeal chairperson can change the outcome and actions to be taken, for better or for worse. The employee should be given a right to be accompanied for the appeal hearing. A note-taker should be present to take notes of the meeting. The meetings purpose is to provide a forum for the employee to explain their appeal and for the appeal chair to consider the grounds. The employer should communicate the final decision in writing without unreasonable delay following the appeal meeting. 

If an employee brings a Tribunal claim without appealing, any compensation they are awarded may be reduced. 

Disclaimer: This article does not contain a full statement of the law and it does not constitute legal advice. Please contact the Employment Law Team on 020 3743 0600 if you have any questions about the information set out above.

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