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How to raise a grievance at work

raising a grievance

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 1 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.

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 1   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 1 1 and set out what you need to do as well as your employer’s obligations when you invoke the grievance procedure.


A fair procedure

The ACAS Code 1 sets out basic principles for a fair grievance procedure and how rules of natural justice should be applied. The foreword to the ACAS Code 1 suggests that employers might want to establish separate procedures for dealing with issues involving bullying, harassment or whistleblowing.

Although the ACAS Code 1 does not have the force of law in its own right, breaches of the ACAS Code 1 (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/meeting

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.[s13(5) Employment Relations Act 1999 ]


Raising a grievance during the disciplinary process

You can raise a grievance during the disciplinary process. The ACAS Code 1 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.


Heads up!

Do not forget Employment Tribunal time limits. It is 3 months less one day for unfair dismissal, and 3 months less one day from the date of each allegation of discrimination. Even if internal proceedings have not concluded, you protect your prospective claim.  [see Unfair dismissal time limits in the Employment Tribunal, Time Limits in the Employment Tribunal, Discrimination Compensation and Time Limits in the Employment Tribunal, Employment Tribunal Time Limits Calculator]


Updated: 01/03/2020


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