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How To Handle A Grievance

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When an employee has a grievance, it’s best to try and resolve it at the earliest stage possible, and informally. However, not all grievances can be dealt with in this way, and sometimes a more formal process is required.

The formal process should be used as a last resort.

It is best to have a grievance procedure or policy in place, so employees know what to do.

An employee may have concerns or complaints about issues such as their working conditions, terms and conditions of their employment, health and safety issues or bullying and harassment.

When an employee is raising a grievance formally, they should do it in writing and submit this to management. Where the grievance concerns the employee’s line manager, the grievance procedure should set out who, alternatively the employee should raise the grievance with.

Holding A Grievance Meeting

After an employee has submitted a grievance, a meeting should be held as soon as reasonably possible.

The employee should be notified in advance of the time, date and place of the meeting. As a manager, it is best to arrange for an impartial person to take notes of the meeting, to witness what has been said. If the employee has difficulty speaking English or has a disability, then you should consider whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made.

During the meeting, you should get the employee to re-state their grievances and ask them how they would like to see them resolved. If any new issues arise throughout the course of the meeting, it may be necessary to adjourn the meeting to investigate further.

You should explain to the employee when they may expect a response to the grievance if one cannot be reached in the meeting. It is important to treat all grievances equally, and seriously, and that you hear them calmly and objectively.

The Right To Be Accompanied

Employees have the right to be accompanied to a grievance meeting, where the grievance deals with a complaint concerning a duty owed by the employer to the employee. An example of a duty breach would be not honouring the employee’s contract or being in breach of legislation.

The companion can either be a work colleague, a trade union representative, or an official employed a trade union. If an employee wished to be accompanied, they must submit a reasonable request.

The companion does not have the right to answer any questions on the employee’s behalf or prevent the employer from putting their case forward. They can, however, confer with the employee during the meeting and summarise the employee’s case.

After The Meeting: What Happens Next?

It is best to adjourn the meeting after all grievances have been put forward, to allow time to reflect and respond appropriately to what has been said and investigate any matters if necessary.

Once you have decided what action to take, you should set this out in writing to your employee. The letter should also detail an employee’s right to appeal any decisions made. If any part of their grievance is not upheld, the reasons why should also be clearly explained.

If the grievance highlighted any issues or concerns regarding company policies, these should be dealt with as soon as possible.


If an employee feels that the grievance has not been dealt with appropriately, or a satisfactory solution was not reached, they can appeal.

Appeals should be held as soon as reasonably possible. If possible, a more senior manager than the one who dealt with the grievance should hear the appeal. Again, the employee should be reminded of their right to be accompanied.

As with the grievance meeting, you should write to your employee after the appeal hearing confirming your decision as soon as possible. The letter should also detail whether the appeal is in the final stage in the grievance process, or if there are further steps an employee can take.

About The Author.

James Rowland

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners. He is responsible for all Account Management, Sales & Marketing within the company. Having gained a BSc in Psychology and further study for his post-grad Law degree, James embarked on his legal career in 2014. Since then, he has become an Associate Director at a national Employment Law boutique, studied for a Masters in Marketing, and as of 2018, been a Director at Neathouse Partners. Outside of the office, James is a keen cricketer, playing very badly (he calls himself a Batsman but averages single figures) in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves watching his childhood football team, Crewe Alexandra, and is an avid lover of cinema (his favourite film being Pulp Fiction). Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.


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