Grievance procedures exist in order to try to promote the satisfactory resolution of disputes in the workplace. They are also set up to ensure that you as an employee are treated fairly and consistently.
If an employee has a concern regarding his or her treatment at work which is not being addressed properly then he or she can bring it to their employer's attention by raising a grievance. A grievance can be as simple as seeking a resolution on a pay or working practice issue. However, more commonly grievances are about disputes between employees and claims of bullying, discrimination and/or less favourable treatment.
Deciding on whether to raise a grievance itself can be a difficult decision, especially if your grievance is about a senior manager or colleague and their behavior. If your employer has an HR department or there is a senior employee that you trust then you may want to go to them first and ask to speak to them on both an informal and confidential basis seeking their advice on how best to handle the situation. If the matter cannot be resolved informally then the next step is to raise a formal grievance.
Your employer has a duty to consider any grievances raised by you and to deal with them speedily and effectively. Grievance procedures generally do not form part of the contract of employment and are not contractually binding upon either you or your employer.
Most employers have a grievance policy or procedure which spells out the steps the employer will take (and what you need to do) when considering a grievance. If there is no policy, or if you do not think the grievance process your employer is following is fair the ACAS Code of Practice sets out the guidelines on grievance procedures as follows:
Raise Your Grievance in Writing
Although failure to do so does not prevent you from bringing a claim in the employment tribunal about the matter, the employment tribunal may reduce your compensation by up to 25 per cent if you did not first raise the grievance in writing.
Your employer should carry out a proper investigation by collecting documents and interviewing relevant people. Also the person chairing and investigating your grievance should be independent (ie: not the subject of your grievance).
A grievance meeting should be held without an unreasonable delay
You should be informed of your right to be accompanied to the meeting by a colleague or trade union representative. The purpose of the meeting is for your employer to establish the facts and decide whether to uphold the grievance or not.
You should be sent copies of all relevant documents and statements before the hearing, and you should be allowed to call your own relevant witnesses. Your employer may also choose to call witnesses.
Your employer should take meeting minutes (which should be sent to you) and you should ensure the person accompanying you takes notes as well.
Your Employer Should Decide on Appropriate Action
Although your employer at the end of the hearing can give the decision, they should confirm it in writing after the hearing. The decision should include details of the employer's intended actions for example, mediation, training, or disciplinary sanctions, as well as notifying you of the right to appeal.
Right of Appeal
If you decide to appeal the grievance decision, it should be in writing and you should specify the grounds of appeal. If you bring an employment tribunal claim against your employer without appealing, your award may be reduced.
At least one senior person who has not been involved in the grievance to date should conduct an appeal meeting, and your employer should carefully consider any new evidence. The final decision and reasons for that decision should be communicated to you in writing without arbitrary delays.
Whilst the ACAS Code for Grievances is not legally binding, employment tribunals can increase your compensation by up to 25 per cent if your employer has “unreasonably” failed to follow the Code, or reduce your compensation by up to 25 per cent if you have “unreasonably” failed to follow it.
If the grievance is serious and your employer has rejected it, and any appeal, it may raise questions about your future with your employer. Whether you have a potential claim against your employer will depend on the facts.
If you wish to raise a grievance and require assistance, or you simply want more information about your rights, please contact us for an initial free consultation.