Dealing With Grievances

Nobody said the world of work would be all plain sailing and at some point in your career you’re bound to face some conflicts. People break the rules and fall out with colleagues or bosses every day, but the important thing is how you deal with it.

You may not always see eye-to-eye with your employer, or you may be having disciplinary problems for breaking the rules, but whatever the situation there is usually a clear set of rules that must be followed to resolve the issue.

Staying calm and professional can be difficult in very testing circumstances but following the right legal procedures is vital to solving any workplace row.

What are Workplace Grievances?

Workplace grievances normally fall into two broad categories: either you have a Problem with your Employer, or they have one with you. Either way, there are correct procedures for grievances and disciplinaries.

What if Your Employer Has a Grievance?

If your employer has a grievance with you it could be for any number of reasons, although you will usually be aware that something has gone wrong. Almost all companies now have a published set of employment terms that set out the behaviour expected from employees.

This will provide details of all the various policies on things like acceptable email or Internet use, bullying, discipline and performance. If an employer thinks you have breeched any of these rules then you may be called to a disciplinary hearing or meeting.

This could be:

  • An informal meeting to discuss the grievance.
  • A hearing for misconduct. This is usually for less serious offences that warrant some kind of formal warning. Your firm will probably have a disciplinary code explaining the various punishments.
  • A hearing for gross misconduct. Some behaviour is identified as so serious that an employee could be sacked if guilty.

What if You Have a Grievance?

You may well be fed-up or angry about some perceived injustice, but to make a formal complaint you must have a genuine grievance as well as the evidence to back it up.

For minor complaints you should simply discuss the problem with your manager or supervisor. For example, you may be having issues with conflict in the workplace involving other staff. This may not warrant a grievance being raised on it’s own. It’s best to flag that type of issue with HR. However, if it is about something more serious, then you have the right to request a formal hearing.

Serous problems that might warrant a grievance complaint include:

  • Unfair treatment. This could be a lack of access to training or being continually overlooked for promotion.
  • Serious problems with you terms and conditions of employment or job description.
  • Problems collecting your pay or with the agreed rate of pay.
  • A serious break down in your relationship with colleagues or managers.
  • Discrimination, Harassment or bullying at work.
  • Health and safety issues.
  • Faulty or dangerous equipment

Since 2004 all companies have been required to follow a statutory minimum disciplinary, dismissal and grievance code. These procedures form a minimum standard that employers and staff must follow to resolve grievances.

You can find out more about the code from the government’s conciliation and mediation body Acas, who have drawn up a full code of practice.

Your employer will be penalised if they have ignored this statutory code or failed to provide you with a copy of their own grievance procedure.

Under the rules, the following process must be followed:

  • A written grievance must be submitted by either the employee or the employer.
  • A meeting of both parties to review the case.
  • An appeal if necessary.

There is a slightly different ‘modified grievance procedure’ if you have already left the company or if this has been requested in advance. Under these rules you will usually be informed of the final decision in writing.

How Should Grievances be Resolved?

Most employers will have a discipline and grievance policy written into their terms and conditions or employee handbook, which will explain what will happen in the event of problems arising.

Depending on the problem it may be that things can be settled through a private, informal meeting with your manager. However, if this is not the case you may be called into a disciplinary hearing.

If this is the case you should always find out what you are being accused of before the hearing, as under natural law you have the right to prepare a defence against any accusations.

You will usually be entitled to take someone into the meeting with you. This could be a trusted colleague, a trade union representative or an impartial member of staff.

Whatever the outcome you will generally have the right to appeal the decision and you may want to speak with a trade union official, legal adviser or employment law specialist.

If things are not resolved properly or you feel you have still been treated unfairly you can make a claim with an Employment Tribunal. You should seek legal advice before doing this.

You can find more information at:

ACAS the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service or On the Government’s website.

More on this site

Alternatively, read around the Safeworkers website to find features on specific issues like bullying, discrimination and working time.

12 thoughts on “Dealing With Grievances

  1. Dedi2018 says:

    Hi my boss has a grievance with me regarding my performance at work and swear words and racial comments made by me apparently. My boss keeps saying she wants a meeting with me but this happened nearly 3 months ago and I am still waiting. While i have been waiting she said there has been another complaint about me and another racist comment made. She is now saying I need to write a statement but not sure quite what happened as it was nearly 3 months ago and now another complaint about 1 week ago

  2. Mo says:

    I have co worker who’s provocative and rude to individual security guards and finds himself very funny. And does provocative violent mischievous behaviour not sure but can I force him back with his own behaviour or sue him etc your advice and he’s bullying individual guards and invidual people that are working outside on the security land is provocatively rude to them.

  3. Mo says:

    I want advice on a work colleague who does stupid annoying things that are very annoying he presents threatening behaviour which is provocative.Just want to know if I should force him off with his idiot misconducts or do I just let his mental behaviour carry on. He is given a responsibility of as a security guard but provocatively annoys the guards on his job any ideas his provocative behaviour is pretending violence.

  4. Sarah says:

    Hello , I’ve been working for a restaurant chain as a waitress for nearly 5 years now , recently we had a new general manager. After 3-4 months of him being with us , while we were having a discussion about the state of the restaurant since he started ( we nearly failed two health and safety checks in an interval of 2 months ) I pointed out to him that I don’t think he is doing a good job . He became were angry and told me that I’m not in the right to talk to him like that , called me rude names , and he was singling me out all day after that incident . I wrote a grievance letter to our head office . I recieved no reply for more than a week , I wrote to them again , letting them know that no one reached out to me yet . Next day I recieved an email from a manager from a different branch , letting me know that he’s happy to meet me , but for nearly two weeks now he wasn’t able to meet me , saying that he has a busy schedule . Since then the atmosphere at work is really awkward when the GM is on duty , he cut my hours , giving them to someone else . I feel he is provoking me when it’s only the two of us there . I ended up having to take a week off work due to the stress . I wrote to HO again asking for their support , still haven’t recieved any advice . What should I do ?

  5. pete says:

    I am currently of sick due to stress I have handed in my company have a greienvce meeting do I have to attend and can I take a freind. Look forward to hearing from you Peter

  6. kay_17 says:

    Hi, I work as a baggage handler at LHR and recently sprained my back. The doctor stated to undergo restricted duties but the company sent me home instead and I’ve been off since. I have been for physio sessions (paid myself) and have been continuing to do my exercises. I have been feeling fully fit to return to work for 2 weeks now and even with a fitness letter the company are not allowing me to return. YET, there are number of other staff who refuse to do manual lifting as they’re on “restricted duties” I don’t understand how they can have one rule for one individual, and with me they won’t let me back even though I’m deemed fit by the doctor. I have been to meetings with my union rep who just sits there without fighting my cause. I feel the union are siding with the company and I have no idea what to do. This is causing me upset, making me feel depressed and like nothing is working out! I want to return to my full duties but do not know the correct steps to take.

  7. ketlani says:

    i have sign 2years contrac with my employer i work as a forklift driver i work 3 shift so never be absent at my work for a year or coming late at work so my problem is i was not feeling well than i go to the doctor so my doctor give me 7days sick leave and doctor cetificate so i do give my boss that docter’s latter so my boss says he can’t pay me 7days he will only pay me 3days so i need help to get pay full 7days becouse it was my first time to get sick

  8. jacqui says:

    I started a job 18th November 2013, went on the sick 30th September 2014, my ssp runs out 15th April 2015. I’ve been given a ssp1 form from employer stating that they can not pay ssp after the 15th April. I am suffering from anxiety and depression and on medication. I sent the ssp1 to employment and support allowance. I was told I need a letter from tax credits stating that my tax credits will end by 15th april 2015, to give to dwp for esa purposes and also my final wage slip from employer. tax credits told me that they do not give out letters to give to esa and that esa should know that. I was given a letter from my employer to sign, to give permission for my medical records to be released from my GP, which I Signed and posted back to my employer. I’ve not heard anything from my employer. I’ve not even received my wage slip for this month either. I went to have a formal chat with my employer and she took notes of my medication. I’m in receipt of housing benefit and council tax support whilst on the sick. I’m worried on what to do next. I’m to ill to return back to work. I have 2 dependant children to. What is my best way forward and what do I have to do next. Please can you help and advice me of what to do.

    • Safe Workers says:

      @jacqui – There’s a lot of individual information here, you should take all the details to you local Citizens’ Advice Bureau and ask them what your next course of action should be.

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