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Handling grievances

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Use this page to understand how to handle grievances in your organisation.

What is a grievance at work?

Sometimes employees are unhappy about something at work. If they take it up with their employer, this is called ‘raising a grievance’.

Employers should treat grievances seriously and promptly – they normally don’t go away on their own!

Writing a grievance procedure

To ensure you deal with grievances promptly and consistently, you should have a written grievance procedure. The procedure should explain how to resolve concerns informally as well as the steps in a formal procedure.

NCVO members can download our editable sample grievance procedure.

Handling a grievance informally

It’s usually best to try to deal with grievances informally and quickly. In most cases you’ll find you don’t need to proceed to a formal grievance procedure.

Depending on the situation, you may want to confirm any agreed actions in writing and follow up in a few weeks, to ensure the matter remains resolved.

Often, grievances are based on conflict between employees. In these situations, it can be helpful to involve a mediator – someone impartial who can help to facilitate a discussion between the different parties.

Read our guidance on managing conflict at work.

Acas can advise you on introducing mediation.

Following a formal grievance procedure

If one of the following applies, you’ll need to proceed to a formal grievance procedure.

  • You aren’t able to resolve a grievance informally.
  • An employee wants their complaint handled formally.
  • You consider the alleged issue significantly serious (for example, bullying or discrimination).

Steps in a formal grievance procedure

You should follow the steps in your organisation’s disciplinary procedure – but you can use the six steps below as a guide.

  1. The employee should put their grievance in writing, explaining the problem and the resolution they’re seeking.
  2. The employer should arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the grievance and how to resolve it.
  3. After the meeting and any further investigations that may be required, the employer should give a written outcome to the employee.
  4. If the employee is not satisfied, they may submit a written appeal, normally within a specified timeframe, to a more senior manager or trustee.
  5. An appeal meeting is then held. The outcome of that appeal meeting is final.
  6. At both the grievance meeting and the appeal meeting, the employee has a legal right to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or trade union representative.

You can find more guidance from Acas on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures sets out the minimum steps you should follow for handling grievances at work.

Formal grievance meeting checklist

If you’re running a grievance meeting, you may find the following checklist helpful.

  • Introduce the parties and explain the purpose of the meeting.
  • Remind the employee and their companion that they should keep the matter confidential.
  • Ask the employee to state their grievance. It can also be useful at this stage to ask the employee the outcome they’re looking for.
  • Ask questions about the issue, to gain a full understanding.
  • Check the employee feels they have had the opportunity to state their case fully.
  • At this stage, do not give your view – you’re simply gathering information.
  • Adjourn the meeting to consider the matter in private, taking advice from a senior colleague, trustee or human resources specialist if needed.
  • Undertake further investigations if needed.
  • Come to a decision and share your decision with the employee. You may decide to share your decision verbally, before confirming in writing.
  • Provide the employee with the notes of the meeting.
  • Offer the employee the right of appeal in your letter communicating the decision.
  • Arrange for someone else to hear the appeal, if an appeal is raised. This helps to avoid bias.

Further information

Last reviewed: 01 August 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

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