Most employers have a formal grievance procedure in place with two or more levels at which complaints may be raised. Such a procedure should allow for employees to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union official at any hearing. As a minimum, an employer (and employee) must follow the standard statutory procedure. The conciliation service ACAS has published guidelines setting out basic standard requirements for a grievance. If a grievance is not pursued and the employee later brings an employment tribunal claim there may be a reduction of up to 25% in compensation awarded.
Standard (three-step) grievance procedure
Step One – The employee should raise the grievance in writing
Many grievances can be resolved informally. However, if this is not achieved, the employee should raise it in writing with a manager. If the issue is with the line manager this may be to a different manager.
Step Two – The employer should hold a meeting and investigate the complaint
A meeting should be held to allow the employee to explain their grievance and how they think it should be resolved. If the matter needs further investigation, the employer should consider adjourning the meeting and resuming it after the investigation has taken place. After the meeting, the employer should communicate its decision in writing without unreasonable delay.
An employee has the statutory right to bring a companion (who may be a fellow worker or a trade union representative) to a grievance meeting.
Step Three – The employee has the 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, setting out the reasons for their appeal.
The appeal should (if possible) be conducted by a manager who has not been previously involved and at a more senior level. Again, there is a right to bring a companion.