21st August 2017

What is a grievance?

Article by Linda Wilson | Employment

A grievance is a term given to a complaint, concern or problem which is raised by an employee with their employer.  This definition is reflected in the ACAS Code, which provides guidance to employers and employees about how a grievance process should be dealt with.  The requirements set out in the ACAS Code are not onerous and are supplemented by a non-statutory ACAS guide which gives further practical guidance on handling a grievance.

Failure to follow the Code cannot lead to a claim in itself.  However, it can lead to other claims against the employer such as:

  • Fundamental breach of the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence, which can then lead to a claim of constructive unfair dismissal;
  •  Claims of discrimination;
  •  Claims of detrimental treatment.

The above are just a few of the potential claims that can arise when a grievance is not dealt with in the correct manner. Also, a tribunal can take into account any failure to follow the Code. This means that if the tribunal feels that an employer has unreasonably failed to follow the Code they can increase any award they have made by up to 25 per cent. Further, if they feel an employee has unreasonably failed to follow the Code they can reduce any award they have made by up to 25 per cent.

So what do employers need to bear in mind when dealing with a grievance?

Firstly, they should start with the ACAS Code to see what the minimum requirements are.  The ACAS Code highlights some key concepts which are:

  •  Meet with the employee to discuss their concerns
  •  Reasonably investigate any grievance where necessary
  •  Deal with the grievance in a timely manner
  •  Allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative

In practice, most complaints or concerns are dealt with informally within the workplace to avoid it escalating to a formal grievance.  However, when a grievance procedure does need to be followed, it is helpful for an employer to have a grievance procedure which complies with the ACAS Code so both employer and employee know whether they stand.

If a grievance procedure does need to be commenced and a dispute needs to be resolved, one solution can be workplace mediation. The non-statutory ACAS guide suggests that such mediation may be appropriate for a number of issues, such as relationship breakdown, personality clashes, or bullying and harassment.

We can provide succinct, practical advice on dealing with a grievance, and we can assist you with drafting grievance procedures or workplace mediation. If you have any queries in respect of the above, please do contact us on 01730 268211 or email us at with your query.

N.B. Please note that the above information is a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend seeking specialist legal advice on your own particular circumstances