Handling Grievances

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Wherever possible grievances are best resolved through an informal route, simply having a quiet word or an informal chat can be a productive approach to resolving work related issues.  Where this approach fails then employers are obliged to adhere to the ACAS code of practice which is detailed below.

What is a grievance meeting?

In general terms a grievance meeting deals with any grievance raised by an employee. For the purposes of the legal right to be accompanied, a grievance meeting is seen as a meeting where an employer deals with a complaint about a ‘duty owed by them to a worker’.


Preparing for the meeting

Managers should:

  • arrange a meeting, ideally within five working days, in private where there will not be interruptions
  • consider arranging for someone who is not involved in the case to take a note of the meeting and to act as a witness to what was said
  • investigate whether similar grievances have been raised before, how they have been resolved, and any follow-up action that has been necessary. This allows consistency of treatment
  • consider arranging for an interpreter where the employee has difficulty speaking English
  • consider whether any reasonable adjustments are necessary for a person who is disabled and/or their companion
  • gather any evidence that you may feel will help you understand the background to the grievance


Conduct of the meeting

  • remember that a grievance hearing is not the same as a disciplinary hearing, and is an occasion when discussion and dialogue may lead to an amicable solution
  • make introductions as necessary
  • invite the employee to re-state their grievance and how they would like to see it resolved
  • put care and thought into resolving grievances. They are not normally issues calling for snap decisions, and the employee may have been holding the grievance for a long time. Make allowances for any reasonable ‘letting off steam’ if the employee is under stress
  • consider adjourning the meeting if it is necessary to investigate any new facts which arise
  • sum up the main points
  • tell the employee when they might reasonably expect a response if one cannot be made at the time, bearing in mind the time limits set out in the organisation’s procedure.


After the meeting

If you have been unable to conclude the grievance at the meeting you should:

  • gather any formal evidence that may be needed such as documents, time sheets, forms, emails etc
  • undertake investigation meetings with witnesses or those that have been accused of an inappropriate act
  • prepare your written response based on the employees information and the evidence you have gathered


Employees right to be accompanied (ACAS code of practice)

The follow applies to those circumstances where a grievance is being handled in a formal manner – it is however good practice to extend this offer when handling matters informally.

Workers have a statutory right to be accompanied by a companion at a grievance meeting which deals with a complaint about a duty owed by the employer to the worker. So this would apply where the complaint is, for example, that the employer is not honouring the worker’s contract, or is in breach of legislation.

The statutory right is to be accompanied by a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union. A trade union representative who is not an employed official must have been certified by their union as being competent to accompany a worker. Employers must agree to a worker’s request to be accompanied by any companion from one of these categories. Workers may also alter their choice of companion if they wish. As a matter of good practice, in making their choice workers should bear in mind the practicalities of the arrangements. For instance, a worker may choose to be accompanied by a companion who is suitable, willing and available on site rather than someone from a geographically remote location.

To exercise the statutory right to be accompanied workers must make a reasonable request. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. A request to be accompanied does not have to be in writing or within a certain time frame. However, a worker should provide enough time for the employer to deal with the companion’s attendance at the meeting. Workers should also consider how they make their request so that it is clearly understood, for instance by letting the employer know in advance the name of the companion where possible and whether they are a fellow worker or trade union of cial or representative.

If a worker’s chosen companion will not be available at the time proposed for the hearing by the employer, the employer must postpone the hearing to a time proposed by the worker provided that the alternative time is both reasonable and not more than ve working days after the date originally proposed.

The companion should be allowed to address the hearing to put and sum up the worker’s case, respond on behalf of the worker to any views expressed at the meeting and confer with the worker during the hearing. The companion does not, however, have the right to answer questions on the worker’s behalf, address the hearing if the worker does not wish it or prevent the employer from explaining their case.


Making a decision

It is generally good practice to adjourn a meeting before a decision is taken about how to deal with an employee’s grievance. This allows time for reflection and proper consideration. It also allows for any further checking of any matters raised.

Set out clearly in writing any action that is to be taken and the employee’s right of appeal. Where an employee’s grievance is not upheld make sure the reasons are carefully explained.

Care should be taken when constructing this letter to ensure that all of the employee’s concerns are addressed with a reasoned, logical argument that is based on evidence and fact rather than opinion.

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