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We are recognised by the recommendation website Three Best Rated as one of the top three employment law firms in Bristol.

Patch Law

Station Road Workshops
Station Road
Kingswood
Bristol
BS15 4PJ

Patch Law is a law firm authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Handling Grievances

Do you have an unhappy employee?

A grievance may be raised by a member of your workforce for a variety of reasons, and it will need your attention, time, and care. It’s important to remember from the outset that your duty to deal with a grievance does not mean you have to resolve it to the employee’s satisfaction. But you do need to ensure you are dealing with it fairly and reasonably. In any event, an unhappy employee is rarely the most productive or effective member of your workforce, and leaving problems unresolved doesn’t make business sense.


I have been delighted with the services that I have received from Patch Law to help me build my small dog walking business. Gillian was easily contactable, approachable and explained everything fairly and in “plain English”. I was quoted a very reasonable, set-price from the outset. I was extremely happy with the communication, timescale and work that was completed. I would highly recommend Patch Law to any small business looking for contracts, terms and conditions or legal work to secure or extend their company.
Business Owner
Bristol

How are grievances presented?

A grievance is expected to be presented in writing with some indication that it is in fact a grievance. However, it might not always be labelled ‘Grievance’, and in this case, if it is not obvious from its content, it’s best to confirm with the employee whether they are intending to raise a grievance.

Sometimes, a formal grievance may be raised by one employee on behalf of another employee, or by the employee’s union representative. Whilst this tends to happen less frequently than an employee raising it themselves, if this is the situation then the grievance will still need to be addressed.

Where do we start?

  • Informal grievances

Many grievance issues can be dealt with informally. A quiet word and the chance for an employee to express their problem is often all that is required to resolve the issue. Whilst it will depend on the type of complaint, taking this route can help employees feel less anxious about what they have raised and can often encourage the situation to be settled amicably. Mediation facilitated by an impartial colleague can often be helpful.

  • Formal grievances

Where an issue cannot be resolved informally, then it may be pursued formally. If an employee’s complaint is more serious and holds wider reaching implications, an official procedure will be more appropriate. As an employer, it may also be that you need the protection a formal process will bring.

  • Internal or external 

Grievances should ideally be resolved within the workplace. However, where it is not possible to deal with the matter internally, employers should consider using an independent third party to help settle the matter. An external party (e.g. an HR consultant) may be appropriate in some cases, but an internal manager can be sufficient as long as the person selected to conduct the grievance is not involved in the issue(s) raised. 

  • Contractual procedure / ACAS Code of Practice

Employers should have a written grievance procedure in place that is accessible to and known about by all employees. The procedure should be referred to in an employee’s particulars or contract of employment but the full procedure is better to be non contractual and contained in a policy portal or staff handbook. If you have a grievance procedure, an employer is expected to comply with it as far as possible, as well as the minimum standard set out in the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. 

The ACAS Code of Practice provides basic and practical guidance on how parties should handle grievance situations. Whilst it is not a statutory process as such, if the case were to end up in front of an Employment Tribunal, the judge has to consider the employer’s observance of the Code when considering the employee’s claims.


Gillian was exceptional in helping my issue with the company and supporting me personally. I needed a good and knowledgeable friend. You came well recommended. I would wholeheartedly endorse that recommendation both personally and professionally.
Accountant
Bristol

Getting the basics of a grievance process right

  ➢    Initial meeting 

This is not a requirement and is not essential.  However, an initial meeting, or at least a conversation, is often useful.  Starting with confirming receipt of the employee’s grievance, it is an opportunity to ask them any clarification questions, as this can assist the employer to carry out an adequate investigation. You do not have to provide the employee with a detailed plan of next steps, but it is a good idea to give them some indication of how long they will have to wait for a formal meeting to be arranged and what you will be doing in the meantime. 

  ➢    Investigation 

As an employer it is likely that you will now need to carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case. This may involve looking at all of the issues raised, and gathering more information on each of them i.e., any related documents, interviewing relevant employees. 

The investigation stage can come with many steps, dependant on how complex the issues are. If you need guidance on how an investigation should be conducted, please do contact us.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that it may not always be necessary to investigate a grievance, particularly if there is strong evidence to suggest that the grievance has been raised frivolously or maliciously. 

  ➢    Formal meeting

Prior to a formal meeting being arranged, the relevant employee should be invited to the meeting in writing. You should also inform the employee in this letter of their right to be accompanied to the meeting. 

In the meeting, you may begin by summarising the purpose of the meeting and provide the employee the opportunity to ask any questions. It may be worth clarifying the issues back to the employee at this stage, to ensure that both parties are understanding of what is being dealt with. You will then be able to present the findings of your investigation and discuss these in turn. 

It may become apparent during the course of discussions that the meeting will need to be adjourned in order for further investigations to take place, and this should be dealt with ‘without unreasonable delay.’ 

If this is not the case, then the meeting can look towards reaching a resolution. Dependant on the nature of the matter, it might be that you ask the employee what they want you to do and how they believe the issues can be resolved (although it’s quite likely they won’t know themselves).  

  ➢    Outcome

Following the meeting, you should now decide on what action, if any, to take. Your decision should be focussed on finding a solution for both parties to move forward. 

The outcome of the process and your decision must be confirmed to the employee in writing, and it is good practice to inform them of  their right to appeal, giving them a reasonable time limit and asking them to state their reasons for appeal. As you would expect, there will frequently be occasions where the employee is not happy with your decision, and the business should be prepared to enter into an appeal process if this is the case. 

  ➢    Appeal

If an employee feels that their grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved, then it is likely they will appeal against your decision. They will need to inform you of the grounds of their appeal in writing, and without unreasonable delay. In the same prompt and fair manner, an appeal should be heard and dealt with impartially. The employee will also need to be informed of their right to be accompanied to an appeal hearing.

An appeal should be dealt with by another manager, not previously involved.  As with the initial decision, the outcome of the appeal will need to be communicated to the employee in writing.

How to deal with tricky grievance situations

It is the nature of grievances that emotions are often running high.  Handling the matter effectively can be time-consuming and needs care; out-sourcing this process may be the most sensible route .  

Grievances involving allegations of bullying, harassment, discrimination, whistleblowing, equal pay or against a line manager need handling with care, and with the benefit of specialist advice.  Some other problematic scenarios that may arise are looked at briefly below. 

Malicious grievances 

Having investigated a grievance or perhaps at an earlier stage, you might conclude that the complaints raised are unfounded and the employee had no good reason to pursue them in the first place. Whilst this is mostly rare, as the saying goes ‘there’s no smoke without fire’, it can happen. However, before taking any action it is worth considering whether the employee could have reasonably thought that the grievance was well founded. Whilst it may appear obvious to others, it could simply have been a total misunderstanding and a ‘wrong end of stick’ type situation.

If, however, it is very much the right end of the stick, and the grievance was raised with malicious intent, then action can be taken. Whilst it’s advised not to rush down this route, you may consider taking disciplinary action against the relevant employee. A disciplinary itself comes with its own process and dependant on the matter, a less formal but clear advisory communication with the employee may be more appropriate. If as an employer you find yourself dealing with this situation, it is worth obtaining our  specialist advice. 

Employees who go off sick during a grievance process

Whether an employee goes off sick deliberately to create more difficulties for you or – more frequently - because the stress of the grievance has made them unwell, it can be frustrating when the process grinds to a halt. It might be that the employee is unwell due to the underlying circumstances of the grievance, and if this is the case then it would make sense that the employee is asked if they feel well enough for the grievance to continue so that it can be resolved, and they can recover. 

If the employee is not well enough to carry on with the process during their sick leave, then it is advised that you write to them and ask that they contact you as soon as they feel well enough. It’s assumed that you are keeping in some contact with them during their absence anyway and so requesting updates like this would not be unreasonable. 

It may be that you have enough information about the grievance to continue with investigations whilst the employee is absent, and the process can continue without delay. On the other hand, the grievance may be at a late enough stage that investigations are complete and it will be for you to meet with the employee once they are well enough to discuss the findings and outcome of your decision. 

A grievance lodged during a disciplinary/performance process

For this situation, the ACAS Code suggests that the disciplinary process may be suspended in order to deal with the grievance. However, where the grievance and disciplinary cases are related, it may be appropriate to deal with both issues concurrently. 

This is not an uncommon situation to arise, and it will be for you to assess whether both proceedings can continue based on whether the grievance covers the same ground as the disciplinary issue. If you are unsure on the best route to take in these circumstances, we suggest contacting us for advice and guidance.  


I am very happy with the service. Gillian gave very sound advice throughout, responded promptly to my numerous questions, and I could not have gone through the process without her support. She also made every effort to control costs, which again was very much appreciated.
Head of Finance
Bristol

How can we help?

There are plenty of situations where employers end up with the stress, time and cost of defending claims in the Employment Tribunal (most often constructive dismissal or discrimination) which could have been avoided if a Grievance had been handled differently.

We can advise you throughout the process if required, from receipt of the Grievance through to any Appeal, as well as advising on ad hoc difficulties that may arise, including:

  • Advising you on the best approach when a Grievance is received.
  • Providing support regarding handling the Grievance process, including guidance for investigations, interviewing any relevant witnesses, checking or helping draft letters;
  • Advising on when a settlement agreement may be an appropriate alternative route to offer, and initiate or respond to ‘Without Prejudice’ proposals and negotiations;

At all times, we take a practical and pragmatic approach, and will remain focussed on the commercial needs of your business, and providing suitable protection from litigation or other adverse outcomes.

Many new employee clients take advantage of our Initial Advice service for quick, pragmatic and cost-effective advice.

For immediate employment law advice please either call us on 0117 290 0905 or complete a Free Online Enquiry and we will soon be in touch with you.

Get in touch

If you need help with an employment law issue then please don't hesitate to contact us. An initial enquiry is free and without obligation.

Call us on 0117 290 0905 or fill out the form below and we will contact you within 24 hours.

When your form is submitted you will receive an automatic email from Patch Law confirming receipt.

Why choose us?

  • Expert and Practical Advice
    You Can Trust
  • Prompt and Friendly Service
  • Consistently Positive
    Client Feedback

Some of our Google reviews

5 star review  Gillian was extremely approachable and helpful. I was very happy with the excellent service I received from Patch Law.

thumb Ellie Cain
February 22, 2022

5 star review  Great experience with Patch law from start to finish.
First of all I was able to speak to Alex who took down details of my issue and guide me on costs.... read more

thumb Sarah F-B
November 22, 2021

5 star review  I received absolutely wonderful service from Gillian and Alex. They are both lovely and professional. Can not recommend them enough x

thumb David Jones
January 22, 2022

Handling Grievances

Do you have an unhappy employee?

A grievance may be raised by a member of your workforce for a variety of reasons, and it will need your attention, time, and care. It’s important to remember from the outset that your duty to deal with a grievance does not mean you have to resolve it to the employee’s satisfaction. But you do need to ensure you are dealing with it fairly and reasonably. In any event, an unhappy employee is rarely the most productive or effective member of your workforce, and leaving problems unresolved doesn’t make business sense.


I have been delighted with the services that I have received from Patch Law to help me build my small dog walking business. Gillian was easily contactable, approachable and explained everything fairly and in “plain English”. I was quoted a very reasonable, set-price from the outset. I was extremely happy with the communication, timescale and work that was completed. I would highly recommend Patch Law to any small business looking for contracts, terms and conditions or legal work to secure or extend their company.
Business Owner
Bristol

How are grievances presented?

A grievance is expected to be presented in writing with some indication that it is in fact a grievance. However, it might not always be labelled ‘Grievance’, and in this case, if it is not obvious from its content, it’s best to confirm with the employee whether they are intending to raise a grievance.

Sometimes, a formal grievance may be raised by one employee on behalf of another employee, or by the employee’s union representative. Whilst this tends to happen less frequently than an employee raising it themselves, if this is the situation then the grievance will still need to be addressed.

Where do we start?

  • Informal grievances

Many grievance issues can be dealt with informally. A quiet word and the chance for an employee to express their problem is often all that is required to resolve the issue. Whilst it will depend on the type of complaint, taking this route can help employees feel less anxious about what they have raised and can often encourage the situation to be settled amicably. Mediation facilitated by an impartial colleague can often be helpful.

  • Formal grievances

Where an issue cannot be resolved informally, then it may be pursued formally. If an employee’s complaint is more serious and holds wider reaching implications, an official procedure will be more appropriate. As an employer, it may also be that you need the protection a formal process will bring.

  • Internal or external 

Grievances should ideally be resolved within the workplace. However, where it is not possible to deal with the matter internally, employers should consider using an independent third party to help settle the matter. An external party (e.g. an HR consultant) may be appropriate in some cases, but an internal manager can be sufficient as long as the person selected to conduct the grievance is not involved in the issue(s) raised. 

  • Contractual procedure / ACAS Code of Practice

Employers should have a written grievance procedure in place that is accessible to and known about by all employees. The procedure should be referred to in an employee’s particulars or contract of employment but the full procedure is better to be non contractual and contained in a policy portal or staff handbook. If you have a grievance procedure, an employer is expected to comply with it as far as possible, as well as the minimum standard set out in the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. 

The ACAS Code of Practice provides basic and practical guidance on how parties should handle grievance situations. Whilst it is not a statutory process as such, if the case were to end up in front of an Employment Tribunal, the judge has to consider the employer’s observance of the Code when considering the employee’s claims.


Gillian was exceptional in helping my issue with the company and supporting me personally. I needed a good and knowledgeable friend. You came well recommended. I would wholeheartedly endorse that recommendation both personally and professionally.
Accountant
Bristol

Getting the basics of a grievance process right

  ➢    Initial meeting 

This is not a requirement and is not essential.  However, an initial meeting, or at least a conversation, is often useful.  Starting with confirming receipt of the employee’s grievance, it is an opportunity to ask them any clarification questions, as this can assist the employer to carry out an adequate investigation. You do not have to provide the employee with a detailed plan of next steps, but it is a good idea to give them some indication of how long they will have to wait for a formal meeting to be arranged and what you will be doing in the meantime. 

  ➢    Investigation 

As an employer it is likely that you will now need to carry out any necessary investigations, to establish the facts of the case. This may involve looking at all of the issues raised, and gathering more information on each of them i.e., any related documents, interviewing relevant employees. 

The investigation stage can come with many steps, dependant on how complex the issues are. If you need guidance on how an investigation should be conducted, please do contact us.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that it may not always be necessary to investigate a grievance, particularly if there is strong evidence to suggest that the grievance has been raised frivolously or maliciously. 

  ➢    Formal meeting

Prior to a formal meeting being arranged, the relevant employee should be invited to the meeting in writing. You should also inform the employee in this letter of their right to be accompanied to the meeting. 

In the meeting, you may begin by summarising the purpose of the meeting and provide the employee the opportunity to ask any questions. It may be worth clarifying the issues back to the employee at this stage, to ensure that both parties are understanding of what is being dealt with. You will then be able to present the findings of your investigation and discuss these in turn. 

It may become apparent during the course of discussions that the meeting will need to be adjourned in order for further investigations to take place, and this should be dealt with ‘without unreasonable delay.’ 

If this is not the case, then the meeting can look towards reaching a resolution. Dependant on the nature of the matter, it might be that you ask the employee what they want you to do and how they believe the issues can be resolved (although it’s quite likely they won’t know themselves).  

  ➢    Outcome

Following the meeting, you should now decide on what action, if any, to take. Your decision should be focussed on finding a solution for both parties to move forward. 

The outcome of the process and your decision must be confirmed to the employee in writing, and it is good practice to inform them of  their right to appeal, giving them a reasonable time limit and asking them to state their reasons for appeal. As you would expect, there will frequently be occasions where the employee is not happy with your decision, and the business should be prepared to enter into an appeal process if this is the case. 

  ➢    Appeal

If an employee feels that their grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved, then it is likely they will appeal against your decision. They will need to inform you of the grounds of their appeal in writing, and without unreasonable delay. In the same prompt and fair manner, an appeal should be heard and dealt with impartially. The employee will also need to be informed of their right to be accompanied to an appeal hearing.

An appeal should be dealt with by another manager, not previously involved.  As with the initial decision, the outcome of the appeal will need to be communicated to the employee in writing.

How to deal with tricky grievance situations

It is the nature of grievances that emotions are often running high.  Handling the matter effectively can be time-consuming and needs care; out-sourcing this process may be the most sensible route .  

Grievances involving allegations of bullying, harassment, discrimination, whistleblowing, equal pay or against a line manager need handling with care, and with the benefit of specialist advice.  Some other problematic scenarios that may arise are looked at briefly below. 

Malicious grievances 

Having investigated a grievance or perhaps at an earlier stage, you might conclude that the complaints raised are unfounded and the employee had no good reason to pursue them in the first place. Whilst this is mostly rare, as the saying goes ‘there’s no smoke without fire’, it can happen. However, before taking any action it is worth considering whether the employee could have reasonably thought that the grievance was well founded. Whilst it may appear obvious to others, it could simply have been a total misunderstanding and a ‘wrong end of stick’ type situation.

If, however, it is very much the right end of the stick, and the grievance was raised with malicious intent, then action can be taken. Whilst it’s advised not to rush down this route, you may consider taking disciplinary action against the relevant employee. A disciplinary itself comes with its own process and dependant on the matter, a less formal but clear advisory communication with the employee may be more appropriate. If as an employer you find yourself dealing with this situation, it is worth obtaining our  specialist advice. 

Employees who go off sick during a grievance process

Whether an employee goes off sick deliberately to create more difficulties for you or – more frequently - because the stress of the grievance has made them unwell, it can be frustrating when the process grinds to a halt. It might be that the employee is unwell due to the underlying circumstances of the grievance, and if this is the case then it would make sense that the employee is asked if they feel well enough for the grievance to continue so that it can be resolved, and they can recover. 

If the employee is not well enough to carry on with the process during their sick leave, then it is advised that you write to them and ask that they contact you as soon as they feel well enough. It’s assumed that you are keeping in some contact with them during their absence anyway and so requesting updates like this would not be unreasonable. 

It may be that you have enough information about the grievance to continue with investigations whilst the employee is absent, and the process can continue without delay. On the other hand, the grievance may be at a late enough stage that investigations are complete and it will be for you to meet with the employee once they are well enough to discuss the findings and outcome of your decision. 

A grievance lodged during a disciplinary/performance process

For this situation, the ACAS Code suggests that the disciplinary process may be suspended in order to deal with the grievance. However, where the grievance and disciplinary cases are related, it may be appropriate to deal with both issues concurrently. 

This is not an uncommon situation to arise, and it will be for you to assess whether both proceedings can continue based on whether the grievance covers the same ground as the disciplinary issue. If you are unsure on the best route to take in these circumstances, we suggest contacting us for advice and guidance.  


I am very happy with the service. Gillian gave very sound advice throughout, responded promptly to my numerous questions, and I could not have gone through the process without her support. She also made every effort to control costs, which again was very much appreciated.
Head of Finance
Bristol

How can we help?

There are plenty of situations where employers end up with the stress, time and cost of defending claims in the Employment Tribunal (most often constructive dismissal or discrimination) which could have been avoided if a Grievance had been handled differently.

We can advise you throughout the process if required, from receipt of the Grievance through to any Appeal, as well as advising on ad hoc difficulties that may arise, including:

  • Advising you on the best approach when a Grievance is received.
  • Providing support regarding handling the Grievance process, including guidance for investigations, interviewing any relevant witnesses, checking or helping draft letters;
  • Advising on when a settlement agreement may be an appropriate alternative route to offer, and initiate or respond to ‘Without Prejudice’ proposals and negotiations;

At all times, we take a practical and pragmatic approach, and will remain focussed on the commercial needs of your business, and providing suitable protection from litigation or other adverse outcomes.

Many new employee clients take advantage of our Initial Advice service for quick, pragmatic and cost-effective advice.

For immediate employment law advice please either call us on 0117 290 0905 or complete a Free Online Enquiry and we will soon be in touch with you.

Get in touch

If you need help with an employment law issue then please don't hesitate to contact us. An initial enquiry is free and without obligation.

Call us on 0117 290 0905 or fill out the form below and we will contact you within 24 hours.

When your form is submitted you will receive an automatic email from Patch Law confirming receipt.

Why choose us?

  • Expert and Practical Advice
    You Can Trust
  • Prompt and Friendly Service
  • Consistently Positive
    Client Feedback