All grievances should be treated seriously and dealt with as swiftly as possible. If this does not happen, an individual grievance can fester and become a much larger issue. It is also possible that, if an employee feels that a grievance has not been dealt with fairly, he/she could resign and claim constructive dismissal. The test for an employment tribunal considering such a claim is whether an employer has acted reasonably. Strong evidence of this will be if the employer has followed a well drafted and fair grievance procedure.

Employers are required to adopt certain statutory procedures for resolving employee grievances. These statutory procedures are the minimum standard required under the law and are intended to complement rather than replace any other workplace grievance procedures which may already be in existence. The procedures are intended to encourage employees to resolve their employment grievances within the workplace, rather than before an employment tribunal. An employee who fails to follow the appropriate statutory grievance procedure will not be able to register a complaint with the employment tribunal.

Employers are legally required to provide employees with a written document which specifies the person to whom the employee can apply to seek redress for a grievance and sets out any further steps in the grievance procedure. This information may be included in the employee’s written terms and conditions of employment or employment contract. Alternatively, the written statement or contract may refer the employee to a separate document to which the employee has easy access.

Employers are also required, to allow workers who raise a grievance to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union official at each stage of the procedure.

If you receive or are aware of any verbal or written complaints from any employee, you should call the ABDO HR Service Advice Line.

Informal meetings

In many cases, employee’s grievances will be fairly minor, although important to them, and can be dealt with in an informal discussion with their supervisor or manager. Grievances specific to the immediate environment and working conditions can usually be resolved over a cup of coffee without anyone else being involved. The tone here should be one of listening and problem solving.

Formal procedures

If the grievance cannot be resolved informally or the employee decides to escalate it, which complies with the standards set out in the Dispute Resolution Regulations, a formal grievance procedure should be used.

The standard statutory grievance procedure comprises three steps:

  • The employee sets out the details of the grievance in writing and sends a copy to the employer.
  • The employer invites the employee to a meeting to discuss the grievance. The employee has the right to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or a trade union representative. After the meeting, the employer notifies the employee of the decision in relation to the grievance and of his/her right to appeal against the decision if he/she is not satisfied.
  • If the employee wishes to appeal, he/she informs the employer who arranges an appeal hearing. The employee has the right to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or a trade union representative. After the appeal hearing, the final decision is notified to the employee.

Use the following link for a formal Grievance Procedure which incorporates the legal requirements of the Dispute Resolution Regulations. Include this procedure in your staff handbook or display it on notice boards.

For letters to confirm each stage of the grievance procedure, please see

Letter of invitation to grievance hearing

Letter confirming outcome of grievance hearing

Notice of appeal hearing (grievance)

Notice of result of appeal hearing (grievance)

The Dispute Resolution Regulations also set out a modified two step statutory grievance procedure to be used after employment has ended and when the employer and the employee have agreed in writing that it should apply. In addition, the employer must have been unaware of the employee’s grievance before the termination or, if the employer was aware, the standard statutory grievance procedure had not started or been completed before the termination. The modified two step procedure is simply:

  • The employee sets out the details of the grievance in writing and sends a copy to the employer.
  • The employer sends a written response to the employee.

The grievance hearing

Once the employee has raised the grievance formally, the responding manager should reply within the timescales laid down in the procedure. If the manager cannot respond in this time, the employee should be informed of the reasons and the date by which he/she should expect to hear. The manager should invite the employee to attend a hearing and should inform the employee of his/her right to be accompanied by a colleague. It is also good practice to have another person from present to take notes and ensure that the meeting is constructive. Use the following link for guidance on how to conduct the meeting Step by step guide to conducting a grievance hearing.

A decision should be made and communicated to the employee within the timescale laid down in the procedure, unless circumstances prevent, in which case the employee needs to be made aware that there will be a delay.

In certain circumstances, with mutual agreement, it may be helpful to seek external advice and assistance during the grievance procedure. For instance, where relationships have broken down an external facilitator might be able to help solve the problem.

Please call the ABDO HR Service Advice Line  if you require assistance.