Grievance procedures


Helen Rice Birchall, Eversheds Last Modified  10 April 2015

Grievance is a term used to describe employees' concerns, problems or complaints. It is in all employers' interests to have a mechanism by which these issues can be dealt with, at an appropriate level, by employees. This will usually be a grievance procedure, which should be kept up to date and communicated to all staff.

Key points

  • All employees must have a written statement of terms and conditions of employment which must contain certain information about grievances, namely with whom and how a grievance should be raised, but which can refer the employee to some other easily accessible document for information on any "further steps".
  • Case law indicates that an employer has an implied duty to "reasonably and promptly afford a reasonable opportunity to its employees to obtain redress of any grievance".
  • The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures "provides basic practical guidance to employers, employees and their representatives and sets out principles for handling grievance situations in the workplace." Wwritten grievance procedures, and grievance proceedings, should comply with the code.
  • Although a failure to follow the code does not make an employer liable to legal proceedings in itself, employment tribunals will take the code into account when considering relevant cases.
  • Many grievance issues can be resolved informally with a quiet word. However, where informal resolution is not possible, a grievance procedure should set out the appropriate way for an employee to raise the issue with management formally.
  • A grievance procedure should allow for a right of appeal in case an employee feels their grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved.
  • Employees (and workers) have the statutory right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union official when they attend any formal disciplinary or grievance hearing.

Recent developments

Right to be accompanied - 2015
Acas has made a small amendment to the Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures regarding whom employees can choose as a companion for a disciplinary or grievance meeting. The redrafting, which follows the EAT decision in Toal v GB Oils, clarifies that employees may choose whoever they like to accompany them, provided that person is a fellow worker or a qualified trade union official. The new code has been formally approved by Parliament and takes effect from 11 March 2015.

Business secretary Vince Cable has asked Acas to consider a wider review of the Code “given the changing nature of conflict and dispute resolution at work” since the last review was carried out five years ago.