Grievances in the workplace

A grievance is essentially a complaint by an employee. It usually involves a concern that a work place policy or contract term has been broken. A grievance can be raised by an individual or a group of employees.

In my experience, common grievances relate to concerns of bullying, harassment and discrimination but there are many other types of incidents that can be raised.

The most important piece of advice I can give is to follow a proper process. Dealing with a grievance is an opportunity to resolve an issue prior to litigation. I've pulled together a 10 step guide for what your organisation should do.


Have a clear grievance policy in place that follows the 'ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures'.

Communicate with your employees so that they know where to find key policies such as grievance procedures.

Follow your policy – this may sound basic but so many organisation cause themselves problems because they have a policy in place and completely ignore it. Grievances must be dealt with fairly and consistently.

Dealing with an issue informally is not doing nothing. It is an important step as it can stop issues developing into a full blown grievance. Make sure you take the problem seriously, follow up with the employee afterwards and keep a record of what the problem was, what you did, what you discussed, what next steps were agreed and why.

If a formal grievance is raised, appoint someone to investigate and hear the grievance. Ensure the relevant person(s) know their responsibility. It may be this is the manager, but if this is not appropriate another manager, HR or an independent consultant such as myself can be appointed.

Hold a grievance meeting to get the full account from the individual raising the grievance. Remember they are entitled to be accompanied.

A full investigation should be carried out and all relevant evidence collected, including speaking to any employees. You may also need to speak with the employee who raised the grievance again to clarify or explore issues further.

Document everything from the invite letters you send, minutes from meetings and the decisions you make.

Inform the employee of the decision made in writing – explain whether the grievance is upheld, partially upheld or rejected and why. Make recommendations if necessary and explain the employee has a right to appeal if it is partially upheld or rejected.

Follow the appeal process if necessary, ensure it is heard by a different manager, HR member or consultant.


Whilst the above top tips must be followed I cannot recommend enough the following:

Train the relevant people in your teams, prior to needing them. Grievances have the potential be costly to your business. If they are not dealt with properly, not only is there a financial impact, but the risk of litigation, negative PR and impact on employee productivity should not be underestimated. If your investigators are trained, you are less likely to face issues.

If employees are raising grievances it can be indicative of wider issues. It can also be hard for teams to move past these issues. Consider mediation at any time throughout the process - it can be a positive way of resolving these issues and building stronger working relationships.


ACAS would be my first recommendation for someone looking to further their knowledge in this area.

Mast People Support can help you with the end to end management of your grievance process. Whether you want help writing a policy, training for your teams or someone to investigate and hear a grievance, we can provide you with the support you need - please get in contact.

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