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Grievance procedures

Grievance is a term used to describe employees' concerns, problems or complaints. It is in all employers' interests to have a mechanism by which these issues can be dealt with, at an appropriate level, by employees. This will usually be a grievance procedure, which should be kept up to date and communicated to all staff.

Key points

  • All employees must have a written statement of terms and conditions of employment which must contain certain information about grievances, namely with whom and how a grievance should be raised, but which can refer the employee to some other easily accessible document for information on any "further steps".
  • Case law indicates that an employer has an implied duty to "reasonably and promptly afford a reasonable opportunity to its employees to obtain redress of any grievance".
  • The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures provides basic practical guidance to employers, employees and their representatives and sets out principles for handling grievance situations in the workplace. Written grievance procedures, and grievance proceedings, should comply with the code.
  • Although a failure to follow the code does not make an employer liable to legal proceedings in itself, employment tribunals will take the code into account when considering relevant cases.
  • Many grievance issues can be resolved informally with a quiet word. However, where informal resolution is not possible, a grievance procedure should set out the appropriate way for an employee to raise the issue with management formally.
  • A grievance procedure should allow for a right of appeal in case an employee feels their grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved.
  • Employees (and workers) have the statutory right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union official when they attend any formal disciplinary or grievance hearing.