Guide

Handling grievances

Writing your grievance procedure

If an employee has concerns or complaints about their work, employment terms, working conditions or relationships with colleagues, they may want to discuss them or bring them to your attention. They will then want you to address and, if possible, resolve these grievances.

The best way to do this is to have a grievance procedure. If it deals with grievances in a fair and reasonable manner, you're much less likely to lose valued and skilled staff through resignation. It will also help you successfully defend any industrial tribunal claim for:

The duty to provide a grievance procedure

You should provide each of your employees with a written grievance procedure. Your procedure should - at the very least - follow the good practice principles set out in the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

If you unreasonably fail to follow the code and the issue ends up at an industrial tribunal, the tribunal could increase the employee's compensation by up to 50 per cent.

The content of a grievance procedure

The exact nature of your procedure will depend on the size and structure of your organisation.

However, any grievance procedure should:

  • Be simple and easy to follow. 
  • Allow for proceedings to be kept confidential
  • Aim to settle grievances fairly and quickly.
  • State how and with whom to raise the grievance in the first place.
  • Indicate that you will try to resolve most grievances informally, eg by discussions with the employee's immediate manager.
  • Identify an alternative person with whom a grievance should be raised if the usual person is the subject of the grievance. For example, if the line manager is the person with whom grievances should be first raised but they are the subject of the grievance, the procedure should name someone else, eg the line manager's manager.
  • Set out to whom the employee should appeal if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the initial grievance hearing - see appeals against grievance decisions.
  • State that, if possible, a manager previously uninvolved in the matter will hear the appeal.
  • Give time limits for each stage, particularly for lodging and hearing the appeal.
  • Mention that the employee has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or union representative at any meeting.

LRA guidance on handling discipline and grievances at work.

Consulting employees on your grievance procedure

You should involve your employees and, where appropriate, their representatives, when putting together your grievance procedure.

If you have any workplace representatives, it may be preferable for you to carry out this consultation through them, ie either with the trade union or, if there is none, elected employee representatives.