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Responding to Grievances

Ensuring a fair process is followed

Employers should ensure that any grievance raised is investigated and dealt with in a timely manner. Failing to do so may cause unnecessary problems at a later stage.

What action should be taken if a grievance is raised?

Most employers have their own grievance policy and procedure. This should follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, the main steps of which are:

  • A grievance should be raised in writing and should provide sufficient details of the complaint to enable the employer to understand and investigate the concerns raised.
  • The employer should arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the matters raised. The meeting should be held without unreasonable delay, but may be adjourned if further investigations are required.
  • The employee has a legal right to bring a Companion (see below) to the meeting.
  • After the meeting the employer should decide on appropriate action and this should be communicated to the employee in writing (again without unreasonable delay).
  • The employee must be given the right to appeal the decision if he is dissatisfied with the outcome.

Right to be accompanied to the meeting

Under the Employment Relations Act 1999, employees have the right to bring a Companion to a grievance meeting. A Companion can either be a Trade Union Representative or a workplace colleague.

The request to be accompanied should be reasonable. It may not be reasonable to bring a Companion who has a conflict of interest (i.e. a witness) or someone who may be prejudicial to the meeting (i.e. a co-complainant).

Employees do not have the right to bring a friend or a legal representative (save in very exceptional circumstances). If an employee suffers from a disability it may be appropriate for him to be accompanied by another person by way of a ‘reasonable adjustment’ to the usual procedure, in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.

Right of Appeal

Employees have a right of appeal if they are not satisfied with the grievance decision. If an employee wishes to appeal he should do so in writing detailing the reasons for the appeal. If the reasons for the appeal are not set out in the appeal letter the employer should ensure that they are requested well in advance of the grievance appeal hearing.

A different manager should undertake the appeal hearing to ensure impartiality. Again, this meeting should be held without unreasonable delay and the employee will be entitled to bring a Companion to the meeting.

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