A Plain English Guide To British Employment Law

Grievance Procedures and Letters of Grievance

What is a grievance procedure?

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 for grievance procedures which you and your employer should observe, which are contained in the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

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
  • discrimination
  • not getting your statutory employment rights

How do I raise a grievance?

If you tried to resolve your workplace grievance informally and this approach did not work, you should raise the matter formally. You can submit a formal grievance letter.

Also, check your company grievance procedure. 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 to whom you can submit your letter of grievance.

To comply with the Acas code, your employer’s grievance procedure is likely to include the following steps:

  • writing a formal letter of grievance to your employer
  • a meeting with your employer to discuss the issue
  • the ability to appeal your employer’s decision

What is a formal letter of grievance?

As soon as you believe you have a grievance, you should write to your employer, submitting a formal letter of grievance which gives 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.

Click here for more information on writing a letter of grievance.

How do I prepare for a grievance meeting?

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.

Do I have a right to be accompanied at a grievance hearing?

You have an employment law 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. Employment law protects them 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 workplace grievance.