Grievance procedure

As you can imagine, your workplace is made up of people from all different backgrounds, life experiences, and places. So, with this in mind, conflict between team members should be expected and are often unavoidable. As an employer, there are some processes you can put in place to help mitigate grievances or employment tribunal claims....

Read Time: 9 Minutes

Paul Gill
By: Paul Gill
January 23, 2024
Skip to Download

As you can imagine, your workplace is made up of people from all different backgrounds, life experiences, and places. So, with this in mind, conflict between team members should be expected and are often unavoidable. As an employer, there are some processes you can put in place to help mitigate grievances or employment tribunal claims.

If you need immediate advice, get in touch with one of Employer Advice’s experts here.

a formal grievances that can go to the employees line manager in a written complaint.

What is a grievance procedure?

A grievance procedure is a formal process that sets out the steps for managing a complaint. It’s important to remember that a grievance can happen in any situation. If you mishandle them or don’t follow the correct procedure it can lead to an unfair dismissal, an employment tribunal claim or a constructive dismissal claim.

No one, whether it’s an employee or employer wants to be the one to raise a grievance, when they do arise, they must be handled in the correct way with care and consistency

further meeting that is part of the grievance procedure. This can help employers avoid an employment tribunal.

What does ACAS say about grievance procedures?

When an employee comes to you with a formal complaint or grievance, as an employer you should ensure that your procedure falls in line with ACAS’ disciplinary and grievance procedures.

If you are making your own procedure, you need to ensure that you include information relating to:

  • How your employees should set out the details of their grievance. Remember this should include what the problem was, data of the letter, and a suggested resolution.
  • Who do they need to send the grievance letter to (it’s also best to include an alternative)?
  • The initial meeting with the manager to discuss the incident.
  • The first formal meeting with a manager.
  • An outline of the process for appealing the decision.
  • The time frame for each stage of the grievance process.

After you’ve put together your disciplinary and grievance procedures, consider adding them to the following documents.

  • Employee handbook.
  • The employment contract.
  • Intranet platforms.

an employee who isn't happy with the grievance outcome following the formal grievance procedures.

Where do Grievances start?

Typically when an employee has a problem, concern or complaint in their workplace, they will start the process with an informal conversation with all the relevant parties. This conversation will hopefully resolve the issues between the team, and allow your employees to raise and address their concerns before they escalate into a large problem.

But a formal grievance procedure starts as soon as you receive the notification of a grievance from the affected employees.

If your employee decides to give their grievance to you in a physical letter, they should include the following.

  • Who is involved?
  • When the incident happened.
  • Any evidence?

They can also include what outcome they’d like to see from the procedure. As soon as you receive notification of a grievance you should follow your formal disciplinary and grievance procedures. We’re going to break down each set of the grievance procedure.

a formal procedure for an employee that has been outlined in their employment contract

The informal procedure.

Any of your employees can raise a grievance with their supervisor or line manager. Although they may not feel comfortable speaking to them about their grievances. In these instances, they may decide to take their grievance to another senior manager in the business.

When an employee raises a grievance, you need to have an initial conversation with them. This meeting will allow them to explain their concerns to you. You should take notes on the key points, these will help you to determine your next steps.

It’s important to remember that this meeting is to find out more information, not to resolve the issue. Depending on what information is shared with you, you may need to launch a formal investigation (such as alleged bullying, sexual harassment, and violence)

If it is a small issue, you may wish to organise a mediation meeting between your employees to resolve the issues. If, as a result of the mediation, you aren’t able to come to a resolution, you can address it with a formal grievance.

Typically there are three main reasons for an employee to escalate their complaint to a formal grievance.

These are:

  1. They’re unhappy with the result of the informal grievance.
  2. They want the issue to go through the formal procedure.
  3. It’s a serious issue, such as violence, or whistleblowing (this isn’t an exhaustive list)

Formal grievance procedure

Grievances will become formal when they are raised by an employee. This can be through a written grievance complaint by an employee.

After the grievance investigation into the allegation has finished there are three main steps in the disciplinary and grievance procedures.

These are:

  1. The grievance hearing.
  2. The employer’s decision.
  3. The Appeal.

We’re going to look at each stage in more detail below.


an employer going through their own grievance procedure with an employee. to help with an appeal meeting, and workplace grievance.

The grievance hearing

  1. When the grievance is raised you should gather further information on the grievance in writing and schedule a meeting with the involved parties to discuss the grievance.
  2. After the meeting, you should start a formal investigation. This investigation will uncover the facts of the allegations while keeping any requests anonymous.
  3. Through these investigations, you should ensure that your employees are aware they are able to bring a colleague (or trade union official) with them to the grievance hearing. It’s important to remember that the employee’s companion can speak during the meeting and ask questions (as long as they have the employee’s permission first). But they aren’t allowed to answer questions on behalf of your employee.
  4. It’s important to remember that you can’t deny your employee’s request for a companion. but you can state limit it to a colleague or a trade union official.
  5. Every relevant person must try to attend the grievance hearing. if an employee fails to attend without a valid reason, the hearing can continue in their absence to avoid an unreasonable delay (as long as you’ve warned them first that this might happen).
  6. Ask your staff to offer a solution to the grievance.
  7. You may need to conduct a further investigation. you can organise and adjourn the hearing until a later date. During this investigation, you may also want to collect additional information and witness statements.

employers and line mangers trying to come to a final decision in the employer's grievance procedure

The decision

  1. Following the meeting and any investigations, you need to state in writing, the outcome of the grievance hearing.
  2. The outcome letter should also include the action that is required to resolve the issue.
  3. You can also remind the employees involved that they have the right to appeal the decision made during the grievance procedure.
  4. Whatever you decide the grievance outcome is, you should make sure that the decision is fair and appropriate.

employees after raising a grievance, and providing the relevant documents to recieve practical guidance from their employer

The appeal hearing

  1. Any of your employees have the right to appeal your decision. One of the more common reasons for employees appealing is that it doesn’t resolve the complaint. Or because they feel like the decision wasn’t fair.
  2. If your employee does decide to appeal, they need to state the reason they are appealing. Their appeal needs to be done so in writing and filed with the relevant information to the right person within the business.
  3. Let your employees know what the time limit is for appealing the decision.
  4. Once the letter has been submitted, you need to arrange another meeting to discuss the appeal in a reasonable time. Keep your employees updated and let them know when the meeting is, well in advance.
  5. The process needs to be impartial and should be chaired by someone who wasn’t involved in the first meeting.
  6. As with the first meeting, the employee can bring along a companion to accompany them.
  7. The employee needs to know the result of the meeting within a reasonable time.
  8. The employer’s decision will end the grievance process. This final decision can’t be appealed.

a group of employers agreeing on the employer's decision to take action after an employment tribunal and grievance appeal hearing.

Get expert help

Employer Advice is an advice service dedicated to supporting UK businesses. We only offer support to employers so you can be assured that we uphold your organisation’s best interests.

If you have challenges in your business with your grievance procedures, then why not contact our team of dedicated human resources and employment law experts or download our free grievance procedure template.

With over 80 years of experience in helping employers take the stress of handling their HR and employment law obligations. Get in touch with one of the Employer Advice experts on 0800 470 0613.

More About
Paul Gill
Paul is one of Employer Advice's business consultants, specialising in employment law and HR.

Need help handling a grievance?

Employer Advice Process Data Securely.