What is the procedure I should follow if I have a grievance at work?
There are many reasons why you could have a grievance at work including:
- You’ve been overlooked for a promotion in favour of your male or female counterpart,
- Your boss has made a number of inappropriate comments towards you,
- You’ve been left feeling ostracised and isolated following your return to work after a period of authorised sick leave.
You may have tried to resolve your concerns with your employer informally and amicably but the issue continues. This could leave you with no option that you feel leaving is the only option. There are however other options.
Should you file a grievance?
In many cases, the answer is yes. This is because if you end up taking the matter to the Employment Tribunal, the strength of your claim and the level of compensation may be affected if you didn’t raise a grievance first. Raising a grievance, however, it is not a move to make without consideration as there could be risks if not handled in the appropriate way.
How do you raise a grievance at work – What is the procedure?
Your employer should have a formal grievance procedure which you should read very carefully. If you are a partner or a senior executive, be aware that you may not necessarily be subject to the same internal procedure as employees.
If your employer does not have its own grievance procedure then it is advisable to follow the ACAS Code of Practice. In any case, the grievance procedure should cover:
- How to set out the details of your grievance in writing – it is always best, when drafting a grievance, to stick to the plain and important facts of the matter. Eliminate any irrelevant facts, diatribes, or theories as to what you believe has caused the issue. Write the grievance in the appropriate tone and avoid any offensive, aggressive or disparaging language. Make the grievance as detailed as possible, date your letter and keep a copy.
- Who to send your letter to – if this is not clear, then consult the human resource department. Their job is to ensure that the grievance is dealt with properly so you should not be apprehensive about doing so. It is advisable to avoid going straight to the top with your grievance as any grievance appeal will need to be heard and considered by someone of greater seniority than the person who dealt with it in the first instance.
- The procedure itself – your employer should provide details of how your grievance will be dealt with. A meeting should be arranged at a reasonable time and in an appropriate venue to discuss the issue(s). You should be informed of your right to be accompanied and your employer should follow up the meeting in writing, telling you what course of action they will be taking.
- The appeal – you will have the right to appeal against your employer’s decision. This should be set out in a letter and the same advice applies as for the original grievance. A further meeting will be arranged to discuss your appeal and this should be conducted by a different and more senior manager. Again, you will have the right to be accompanied.
What other things do you need to consider? What are the risks?
- Have a backup plan
If the procedure is handled well and properly by your employer then it should be possible to resolve the issue without the need for you to take formal action (take the matter to the Employment Tribunal) or have to consider leaving. However as the need to raise a grievance often stems from an already strained relationship, it is advisable to have a back-up plan, such as considering alternative employment and ensuring you will be financially stable to cover you if the worst case scenario ensues.
- Act fast!
You need to remember that the time limits for issuing a claim in the Employment Tribunal are short – 3 months less one day from the date of a discriminatory act (or from the date of dismissal). Although this time limit can be extended for the purpose of the compulsory ACAS early conciliation process, the time limit will neither be paused nor extended by filing a grievance. Dealing with the grievance itself can take some time so it is advisable not to wait or dither too long before filing a complaint. If, however, your employer handles the grievance in such a way that adversely affects your ability to bring a claim, this could give rise to a fresh claim.
How many years’ continuous employment do you have? Take legal advice.
Continuous employment is the amount of time that you have worked for your employer without a break (subject to some exceptions). Many of your employment rights only apply if you have a minimum period of continuous employment, although this does not apply to claims such as discrimination and whistleblowing. If the grievance results in a dismissal or departure from your employment, then you may be left with little or no recourse. It is always advisable to seek independent legal advice before raising a grievance so as to minimise these risks.
In the vast majority of cases, and as a first step, it is advisable to try and resolve your issues at work informally. If the matter remains unresolved, then you need to consider raising a grievance by taking into account the risks set out above and following the appropriate procedure. We would always advise that you take independent legal advice before raising a complaint so as to protect your position.