How do I raise a Complaint or Grievance at Work?
When clients ring to discuss problems they are having with their employer, we often advise them to send a Grievance.
We are well aware that should our client’s matter ever reach the Employment Tribunal, the Employment Tribunal Judge will expect them to have attempted to resolve their complaint using their employer’s internal procedures. If the employee has failed to do so and gone directly to the stage of issuing their Employment Tribunal Claim, the Employment Tribunal Judge can reduce any compensation they receive. Therefore, most disputes begin with the employee raising a Grievance.
Most employers will have a policy or procedure which can be used by employees with a dispute or concern within the workplace. However, with or without their own procedure, employers are required to abide by the ACAS Code of Practice 1: Disciplinary and Grievance Procedure. This sets out the minimum standards an employee can expect in the consideration of their Grievance.
Information to include in the Grievance
Most policies of this nature will require a written complaint to start the Grievance process. I set out below some general principles to assist any employee drafting a Grievance to submit to their employer: –
Make sure your Grievance is addressed to the correct person identified in your employer’s Grievance Policy. If your employer does not have such a policy, then address your Grievance to the most senior member of staff or the Human Resources Department if your employer has one. Ensure you keep a copy and, if possible, proof of your employer receiving your Grievance (email read receipt, proof of posting and/or if delivered by hand, a note of who you gave it to with the time and date).
State clearly within your letter/document that you are submitting a Grievance and you require your employer to initiate their Grievance Policy (if they do not have a Grievance policy then you require your employer to comply with the aforementioned ACAS Code of Practice).
In your opening paragraph set out the nature of your Grievance. For example, you could state that you consider you are being bullied, that you have suffered disability discrimination or, that you believe your wages are incorrect. This paragraph simply sets the tone and prevents any suggestion from your employer that they did not understand the nature of your complaint.
The next part of your Grievance should provide the specific details of the incidents, events or omissions that you are complaining about. It is important to be as specific as possible as your employer will undertake some form of investigation. Therefore, if you are able to give dates, examples, names and witnesses etc this will be incredibly helpful and add credibility to your Grievance.
If your employer has a staff handbook or policy that you believe is being breached, you should refer to the same in your Grievance. You should draw your employer’s attention to how they, or their employees, are breaching their own policies.
6. Once you have set out your complaints as fully and as completely as possible, you should state what action you want your employer to take. Take some time to think about your ideal resolution of the matter. For example, do you want to move departments, do you want the bullying to stop, do you want any disputed amount of wages to be paid etc.
What will happen next?
Your employer should comply with their policy or, alternatively, abide by the aforementioned ACAS Code of Practice. You will usually be invited to a meeting to discuss your Grievance. If all matters are resolved to your satisfaction, this is all well and good. If not, your employer should give you the opportunity to appeal against the outcome of your Grievance.
At each stage, you should request written confirmation of any outcome and an explanation from your employer of any decision they make. Obviously, this should include any decision about whether they uphold your Grievance but should also include any delays or failure to comply with the time limits in their own procedure.
At all times, be aware of the impact delays may have if you are considering Employment Tribunal litigation. Obviously, much will depend upon the type of issue or complaint you have. It may be that your matter is appropriate for a Grievance but does not give you grounds for a claim at the Employment Tribunal. However, if you are considering a claim at the Employment Tribunal you do need to be vigilant about time limits, especially if there is a delayed outcome to your Grievance.
You must begin formal action by way of the ACAS Early Conciliation Procedure within three months less one day of the incident or act you are complaining about. By way of example, if the incident occurred on 30 June you would need to initiate the ACAS Early Conciliation Procedure on or before 29 September. Your time limit for bringing an Employment Tribunal Claim will depend upon the dates of your ACAS Early Conciliation and you will have at least one month from the date of your ACAS Early Conciliation Certificate to begin Employment Tribunal proceedings.
Please note, the Employment Tribunal is extremely strict about deadlines. They have very little discretion and I have seen clients ‘time out’ their claims because they have not initiated the ACAS Early Conciliation Process or submitted their Employment Tribunal Claim within the time limits. As their matter was progressing through the employer’s Grievance Procedure, they thought they were still in time. Unfortunately, often this will not be the case. Therefore, even if you are going through the Grievance Procedure, keep an eye on your time limits and ensure that you take action before they expire.
Can We Help?
I have set out some general guidance which hopefully will assist you if you are raising a complaint or Grievance with your employer. If you would like to discuss your situation, please contact us on 01522 539501 for a free, no obligation, telephone consultation. For more information about Lincs Law Specialist Employment Law Solicitors, please visit our website at lincslaw.co.uk.