What is a grievance?
If there is a concern, complaint or problem that you wish to raise with your employer, this is formally known as a grievance. This can relate to a wide range of situations and circumstances, ranging from working conditions to payments and any other aspect of how you are treated at work.
When can I raise a grievance at work?
You can raise a grievance at any time, even in response to a disciplinary, if you believe that your employer’s actions are unwarranted or unfair.
A grievance is typically raised prior to claiming constructive dismissal, else the damages you are awarded at an employment tribunal will be lowered.
What are the advantages of raising a grievance?
Lodging a grievance at work gives you the opportunity to protect your position by outlining why you are not happy. However, the actual timing of lodging a grievance is extremely important.
Lodging a grievance whilst you are in the process of poor performance allegations or redundancy will allow you to formally make your complaints known before your employer takes further action. Oftentimes this will halt the process of your employer taking further action whilst your grievance undergoes investigation.
A grievance process can also set the foundation for a negotiated settlement.
What happens if you don’t raise a formal grievance?
A formal grievance process isn’t mandatory. If you don’t lodge a grievance, you also aren’t prevented from bringing a tribunal claim.
However, bear in mind that if you don’t lodge a formal grievance, the damages you are awarded via a tribunal claim can be reduced by up to 25%. This is especially if the tribunal believes that you could have avoided the dispute by lodging a formal grievance. If you can prove that a formal grievance wouldn’t have made a difference, however, the reduction may be decreased.
How to raise a grievance?
It is not uncommon for a complaint against your employer to be resolved on an informal basis first. However, if that isn’t possible, you should write a formal grievance in a reasonable time and in accordance with the grievance policy set out by your employer.
Usually, this requires your grievance to be submitted to your line manager. If the grievance relates to your line manager, you should raise it with a more senior manager.
Depending on the terms of the grievance policy, you may be required to submit a copy to HR or in some cases only submit the grievance to the HR officer.
If no policy is in place, you should lodge the grievance with your manager/senior manager and/or HR officer.
Writing a formal grievance
When writing your formal grievance, you should include as much detail as possible as to why you are unhappy. You should include the following information:
- The reason why you are lodging the grievance.
- The circumstances which have led to you raising the grievance, stating relevant facts where possible and any underlying issues. Whilst past events may be relevant, it is important to explain and highlight the reasons why you are raising the grievance at the time of writing.
- Explain what you find unfair about any process. This could be in relation to being made redundant or under-performance accusations, for example, unrealistic time-frames to improve your performance, insufficient training or support, or bogus allegations.
- A clear timeline with reference to facts, times, dates and parties involved.
- If relevant, make reference to how your employer’s actions have affected your health.
- Avoid being too emotive or inflammatory. Try to be as tactile and diplomatic as possible, even if you have particular views on certain individuals or how the business is run. In principle, the purpose of raising a formal grievance isn’t to enter into a “slanging match”.
What actions should your employer take to deal with the grievance?
Your employer should acknowledge the formal grievance and action any necessary investigations to establish the facts of your complaints and any other process as outlined in their grievance policy. Your employer should then notify you of the grievance meeting in a reasonable time.
You should be given the opportunity for a colleague or trade union official to be in attendance. They will also have the ability to participate in the meeting, provide support and raise questions to your employer; however, they cannot answer questions on your behalf. Furthermore, you should be given the opportunity to fully state your case as well as suggestions for a resolution.
Following the meeting, your employer should give you a written response, informing you of the outcome without unreasonable delay. In some cases, further investigation may be required in which case a further meeting may also be needed.
If your employer fails to follow the proper grievance process, including holding a hearing either in person or in writing, an employment tribunal may increase any damages awarded by up to 25%.