July 16, 2007

Grievance procedures: the standard three-step procedure

Your employer's grievance procedure may have more than three steps, but it must include the following.

1. Written statement

You must set out your grievance in writing (often called a step one letter). Your employers grievance procedure should say who to send your letter to. If thats the person causing the problem, or if theyve ignored previous complaints, send it to the HR department or to the persons boss.

2. Meeting

Your grievance should be looked into in a fair and unbiased way. Your employer should invite you to a meeting (sometimes called a hearing) to discuss the problem, and you should attend if you can. If there is someone else involved, they might also be there (but you should tell your employer if you are uncomfortable with this).

The meeting should be at a convenient time for you and anyone else involved. If you think you've not had enough time to prepare, ask for more time. If your employer doesnt agree (and they don't have to), you should go to the hearing, but make sure that your lack of preparation time is noted.

Gather your thoughts before the meeting. Don't be afraid to write down what it is you want to say. There is nothing wrong with reading this out at the meeting.

It is up to your employer what format the meeting takes but they will normally go through the issues that have been raised and give you the opportunity to comment. The main purpose of the meeting should be to try to establish the facts and find a way to resolve the problem. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) have a code of practice which sets out how your employer should carry out a grievance procedure.

If you ask your employer beforehand, you have a legal right to take a 'companion' (who is a colleague or trade union representative) to the meeting with you. If no colleague is willing to accompany you, and you're not a union member, ask if you can bring a family member or a Citizen's Advice Bureau worker (but your employer does not have to agree to this). The companion can present and/or sum up your case, talk on your behalf and confer with you during the hearing. They're protected from unfair dismissal or other mistreatment for supporting you.

The meeting must be at a convenient time for your companion. You can ask for a postponement of up to five days if necessary to get your chosen companion there.

You should be given notes of the meeting, and copies of any information given by other people. Unless they need to investigate further, your employer should tell you reasonably quickly what's been decided, and about your right to appeal if you're not satisfied. You might be told of the outcome verbally at first but it will usually be confirmed in writing.

3. Appeal meeting

If you're not satisfied with the decision, or you think the procedure followed was seriously flawed, you have the right to an appeal. This is usually heard by a higher level of management. If that isnt possible, your employer could ask an Acas mediator or other independent person to hear it. The appeal hearing is similar to the original meeting, and you have a right to a companion, as before.

Your employer should give you enough time to appeal. If they don't, make your appeal anyway, and say that you'll provide more information later.

If you are considering taking your issue to an Employment Tribunal you may want to appeal even if it seems pointless, because a tribunal award could be reduced if you don't.

If you cant sort out the dispute, you can get help through mediation, conciliation or arbitration, if your employer agrees to it.

How soon can you go to a tribunal if you're still not satisfied?

If your grievance is of the type which could ultimately be taken to an Employment Tribunal you must send your written grievance (step one letter) to your employer no later than three months after the date that the problem occurred.

You must then wait 28 days (starting from the date you sent the step one letter) so that our employer can deal with the matter. Then, if you're not satisfied with your employer's response, you can make your claim to an Employment Tribunal.

Some types of Employment Tribunal claims are not subject to the statutory minimum grievance procedures and have strict time limits. If you are unsure about what to do you can get help from any of the sources listed below.

Where to get help

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues. You can call the Acas helpline on 08457 47 47 47 from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.

If you are a member of a trade union you can get help, advice and support from them.


Anonymous said...

I set out a complaint of bullying under an antibullying policy and grievance procedure, and was asked to justify reference to the grievance procedure. The employer considered the complaint under the antibullying policy only, which had arbitrary investigation procedures and no right of appeal. It was not upheld, and then they terminated my employment.

Policies don't always work as expected, and those with the most offensive working practices often have the best policies. They don't, however, have any form of accountability such as annual records of complaints.

Anonymous said...

You may find that there are people in UCU who are prepared to help you.

However don't assume that UCU will help you. The person you speak to may have a very different agenda which is not in your interests...

Aphra Behn