How to raise a grievance at work

What is a grievance?

  • Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers during employment. To write a grievance you must be an employee. Your grievance can be about any problem that you have including terms and conditions of employment, health and safety, work relations, new working practices, organisational changes, and equal opportunities.
  • After your employment has ended you can use your employer’s appeal procedure and ACAS early conciliation. You only have the right to use a grievance procedure after your employment has ended if your employment contract allows it.
  • S1 Employment Rights Act 1996 gives you the right to a written statement of terms and conditions of employment. This is called a Section 1 Statement. S3 Employment Rights Act 1996 says that the Section 1 Statement must include the grievance rules and procedure which apply to your employment.
  • The ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance Procedures (the Code) sets out the recommended procedure when dealing with grievances. It is accompanied by the guide to Discipline and Grievances at work (the Guide), which provides directions for you and your employer on addressing a grievance at work.
  • Section 207 Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 says that the Code is admissible evidence before an Employment Tribunal. This means that if you have an opportunity to raise a grievance and do not do so, any compensation you are awarded by an Employment Tribunal can be reduced by up to 25% because you should try to resolve matters with your employer before bringing a formal claim. Your award can be increased by up to 25% if your employer does not comply with the code.
  • Some grievance procedures spell out how long after the event you should complain about it, but there is no legal rule about how long after the event that you can complain about it in a grievance. The most important consideration is the Employment Tribunal time limit which requires that you file your claim within 3 months less 1 day of the event you are complaining of. Time limits are very strictly enforced so if your employer is delaying the grievance procedure you should start the ACAS Early conciliation process to preserve your position.
  • Whether or not your grievance is upheld you should not be subjected to a detriment because you have raised a grievance. Part V Employment Rights Act 1996 gives you the right to make a claim for detriment if you are punished by your employer because you raised a grievance about a protected employment right.


Resources available

  1. How to write a grievance that gets you what you want
  2. How to write a grievance about bullying and harassment at work
  3. How to write a grievance about changes to your employment contract
  4. How to write a grievance about discrimination at work
  5. How to write a grievance about the behaviour of a colleague, manager or supervisor
  6. How to write a grievance about unauthorised deductions from your wages or salary


The grievance procedure

Under s1 Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996), your written statement of particulars must tell you the person to whom you should address a grievance, and either tell you what the procedure for a grievance is or refer you to a separate document containing the procedures (s3 ERA 1996). The separate document is usually your employers grievance policy and procedure. The ACAS Code also emphasises that the grievance procedure should be in writing, and developed with the involvement of employees and their representatives. If your employer does not do so, this could be a breach of the Code. Any grievance policy should incorporate the ACAS Code and set out what you need to do as well as your employer’s obligations when you invoke the grievance procedure.



The procedure must be fair 

The ACAS Code sets out basic principles for a fair grievance procedure and how rules of natural justice should be applied. The foreword to the ACAS Code suggests that employers might want to establish separate procedures for dealing with issues involving bullying, harassment or whistleblowing.

Although the ACAS Code does not have the force of law in its own right, breaches of the ACAS Code (by you or your employer) can be used in evidence in any subsequent legal proceedings.  – Section 207A  and Schedule A2 Trade Union and Labour Relations(Consolidation)Act 1992.


 The grievance hearing

s13(5) Employment Relations Act 1999 says that a grievance hearing is the appropriate forum for your grievance to be aired before your employer. You have a right to be accompanied to the grievance hearing and any subsequent appeal.


Raising a grievance during the disciplinary process

You can raise a grievance during the disciplinary process. The ACAS Code recommends that your employer should temporarily suspend the disciplinary process in order to deal with your grievance, deal with the disciplinary issue and grievance together or take alternative action.

If your grievance is about discrimination, management bias or conflict of interest, then your employer must suspend the disciplinary procedure and fully investigate your grievance.



Best of the web

Raise a grievance at work

ACAS Code on disciplinary and grievance procedures

Dealing with grievances at work

Understanding grievances and disciplinaries



This resource is published by Employee Rescue Limited. Please note that the information and any commentary on the law contained herein is provided free of charge for information purposes only. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. Employee Rescue accepts no responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material contained in this update. Further specialist advice should be taken before relying on the contents of this summary. No part of this summary may be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without the prior permission of Employee Rescue Ltd.





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