Grievances and Workplace Disputes

What are Grievances and Workplace Disputes?

The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (the Acas Code) sets out guidance for employers and employees to resolve grievances effectively in the workplace. Dealing with grievances and workplace disputes effectively can avert tribunal claims by enabling the issue to be resolved internally. In the event an employer has a grievance procedure, it is important that it is followed, assuming it complies with the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.

If an employee’s claim is successful but either the employer or the employee failed to follow the Acas Code, the level of compensation awarded to the employee could be affected.

The employee should raise the grievance in writing

A grievance can be any concern, problem or complaint that an employee raises with the employer. If a grievance cannot be resolved informally, the employee should raise it in writing with a manager.

The employer should hold a meeting and investigate the complaint

A meeting should be held to allow the employee to explain their grievance and how they think it should be resolved.  When the meeting is concluded, the employer should communicate its decision in writing without unreasonable delay, including (where appropriate) details of any action it intends to take to resolve the grievance.

The employee may bring a companion

A worker or employee has the right to be accompanied to a grievance hearing by a fellow worker or a trade union representative where:

  • Their grievance concerns the performance of a duty by an employer in relation to a worker.
  • The employer invites them to attend a grievance hearing.
  • They reasonably request to be accompanied at the hearing.

The employee has a right of appeal

The employer should inform the employee that they have a right of appeal when they communicate the decision. If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome, they should appeal in writing, specifying the grounds of their appeal. If they bring a tribunal claim without appealing, any compensation they are awarded may be reduced.

The appeal should be dealt with impartially at a hearing, which should (if possible) be conducted by a manager who has not been previously involved.

Practical steps:

For employers

  • Make sure disciplinary and grievance procedures are transparent and accessible to employees. Train managers how to handle grievances effectively.
  • Encourage managers to resolve issues pro-actively and informally before they get to a formal grievance stage.
  • Hold a meeting with an aggrieved employee to put their side of the story before investigating.  Then hold another meeting with the employee to discuss your findings before making a decision.
  • Keep written records, including minutes of meetings.
  • Communicate decisions effectively and promptly, setting out reasons.

For employees

  • Seek to resolve matters informally but, if this is not possible, do not delay unreasonably before submitting a formal written grievance.
  • Make every effort to attend meetings and consider bringing a companion.
  • Submit a written appeal if not satisfied with the outcome and set out the reasons why not.

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