What is it?

An employee is entitled to let you know via a grievance letter, email or discussion about any issues they have at work. The process after informal discussions have been exhausted is to raise a formal grievance letter laying out the problems they have. This is known as a step one letter. The grievance letter should be raised within 5 working days of the event taking place. It is most important that the employee does not ignore the grievance letter be it raised by the employee or their representative. Failure to respond can give rise to issues at tribunals at a later date.

How to deal with it?

When dealing with a grievance letter:

  • ensure you’re familiar with the procedure and apply it correctly
  • hold any grievance hearing in private without interruptions
  • where a grievance letter tells you that the grievance relates to the person’s line manager, ensure that the employee can raise the grievance with someone else
  • listen carefully to the person’s explanation of the problem in the grievance letter and consider whether there is a deeper issue which might be the root cause of the grievance
  • listen to any conflicting points of view
  • weigh up all evidence to see whether there is an issue you need to address
  • decide what action to take, trying to balance fairness to the person without compromising the business or other workers
  • inform all concerned parties of your decision and the appeal process
  • ensure you resolve any problems relating to policies, procedures or conduct where the grievance procedure highlights these
  • keep the process as confidential as possible

Deal with grievances sensitively, particularly where they concern other workers. You may wish to develop specific procedures for very sensitive matters involving unfair treatment eg, discrimination, bullying or harassment.

What else should be considered?

Consider also having a separate “whistleblowing” procedure, so that workers are encouraged to raise any complaints about wrongdoing eg fraud, internally rather than disclosing them outside the business.

If a worker raises a separate grievance during a disciplinary hearing, it’s good practice to adjourn the hearing until the grievance is dealt with.

By dealing with problems in a fair and reasonable manner, you’re much less likely to lose valued and skilled staff through resignation. It will also help you successfully defend a constructive dismissal claim.

In your disciplinary and grievance procedures you should provide for appeals. A written decision to a worker should note their right to appeal.

The procedures should:

•    specify time limits for lodging and hearing the appeal
•    provide (where possible) for a previously uninvolved manager to hear the appeal
•    state the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union official

In addition, the disciplinary appeal procedure should explain what action may be taken as a result, and the grievance appeal procedure should state that the outcome of the appeal hearing is final.

How to prepare for a grievance hearing?

To prepare for a grievance or disciplinary appeal hearing:

  • Deal with the appeal hearing promptly.
  • Hold it at a reasonable time for the employee and give proper notice so they can inform and consult representatives.
  • Ensure you have all relevant facts and documents available for the hearing.
  • Inform any witnesses or managers who may need to attend.
  • Arrange for someone to take notes.
  • Have another manager act as a witness to the proper conduct of the hearing.

At the appeal hearing, consider:

•    the reasoning behind the appeal
•    any new evidence since the earlier decision

You should write to the employee with the result and the reason for the decision as soon as possible after the hearing. Make it clear, if this is the case, that the decision is final.

Draft Procedure

A draft procedure to handle grievances is set out below:


The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that you have an opportunity to raise formally any grievances relating to your job or complaints regarding the Company or any member of the Company.

The Company’s aim is to ensure that your grievance or complaint is dealt with promptly and fairly.

The procedure does not confer any contractual rights further than any statutory minimum requirement according to the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004.

Informal Discussions:

If you have a grievance about your employment you should discuss it informally with your immediate supervisor/manager.

If your grievance cannot be settled informally then you should raise it formally in line with the following procedure:

Step 1 – Statement of Grievance
You should set out your grievance in writing to your immediate supervisor/manager within 14 days of the date of the grievance.

Step 2 – Meeting

•    You will be invited to attend a meeting to discuss the grievance.
•    You should take all reasonable steps to attend this meeting.
•    You may be accompanied by a work colleague if you so wish.
•    You will be notified of the decision in writing.

Step 3 – Appeal

  • Should you wish to appeal against the decision you should do so in writing to the next level of management.
  • A meeting will be arranged to enable you to set out the grounds for the complaint and the reasons for dissatisfaction with the initial decision.
  • You should take all reasonable steps to attend this meeting.
  • You may be accompanied by a work colleague.

The Manager hearing the appeal will give a decision within 10 working days unless extended by mutual consent. This decision is the final stage of the procedure and will be given in writing.


It is important that you raise any grievance relating to your employment through the above procedure to ensure that the Company has an opportunity to investigate and satisfactorily resolve any issues you may have.

It is essential to the proper working of this procedure that any employee raising a grievance should continue to work normally whilst the procedure is being followed.

At all stages in the procedure you may be accompanied by a work colleague.  The role of your colleague is to act as your witness or to speak on your behalf (whichever you prefer) but not to answer questions directed to you.

Where your complaint is of harassment, you should make use of the Company’s harassment procedure in the first instance.

Where the grievance relates to a disciplinary decision, you should use the Company’s disciplinary appeals procedure.

Newman HR UK employment law advice hand writing human resources