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Grievance Procedures – Advice for Employers

Expert advice for employers on employee grievance procedures

As an employer, you are likely to have to deal with employee grievances from time to time. It is crucial to address these promptly and follow the correct legal process in doing so; otherwise, you could inadvertently damage your position.

You should ideally have your own grievance procedures in place, and these should follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. This gives details of the minimum requirements needed. If you do not have your own standard, then you should use the Acas Code of Practice.

The Code sets out how grievances can be dealt with fully and fairly. The process may seem complicated, but it is important to ensure that you follow each step. Should a case end up before an employment tribunal, any failure to do so could be taken into account, and your employee could be awarded an uplift in damages by way of compensation.

Enlisting the help of experienced employee grievance solicitors early on can often mean that a situation can be resolved quickly, avoiding the need for a protracted legal case. Your employee will understand that you are taking the issue seriously once an employment lawyer is involved and might be more open to negotiating a resolution. A solicitor will also be able to ensure that you follow the correct process throughout and that your rights and interests are protected.

At Stephen Rimmer Solicitors, our expert employment solicitors can give you grievance procedures advice to try and resolve issues efficiently and before a situation escalates. We have extensive experience across a range of sectors and have a strong track record of success in dealing effectively with employee grievances.

How we can help with employee grievance procedures

Employee grievances have the potential to become difficult if they are not addressed without delay. Our employment team can work with you to prevent issues arising in the first place and, if an employee does raise a grievance, to ensure that the situation is dealt with according to grievance procedures best practice. Our services include the following:

  • Creating employee grievance procedures
  • Responding to employee grievances
  • Advising and representing you in negotiation and mediation
  • Settling employee grievances
  • Employment tribunal claims
  • Drafting and negotiating settlement agreements

Consult our employee grievance solicitors in Eastbourne and Hastings

For clear, expert advice on employee grievance procedures, please contact a member of our employment law team for a no obligation discussion:

For more information on our services, see employment law for employers.

Employee grievance procedure FAQs

What counts as a grievance?

A grievance is a formal complaint that an employee has about an aspect of their work. It could relate to a breach of their employment contract, a colleague’s behaviour, working conditions or the way they are being treated, for example, if they believe that disciplinary proceedings against them are unfair.

Raising a grievance is a legal right, and an employee should have easy access to your formal grievance procedure so that they can follow this. The procedure can be set out in their employment contract or in an employee handbook. Raising a grievance can be a precursor to a claim for constructive dismissal and should always be taken seriously by an employer.

How long does an employee have to raise a grievance?

There is no set time limit in which an employee must raise a grievance. This means that, in theory, they can raise issues that happened years ago. It is open to you to set a reasonable time limit in your grievance procedure, although this does not mean that you can ignore historical allegations.

If an employee chooses to raise an issue from years before, they will need to show that they have a valid reason for raising it now and for why they did not raise it earlier.

What does an employer need to do when an employee raises a grievance?

If the issue cannot be dealt with informally, then a grievance hearing should be held with the employee, who should be allowed to bring a colleague or a trade union representative to the meeting.

The employee should be allowed to explain their grievance and make any suggestions as to its resolution. As the employer, you can set a timetable for the next steps of the process and let the employee know who their point of contact will be. They should also be advised of their right to appeal your decision and that they can be accompanied at meetings by a colleague or trade union representative.

You should also ensure that you follow your own grievance procedure at all times. Failure to do this could open the way for your employee to make a claim of breach of contract against you.

Once you have made your decision, your employee should be notified in writing advising them of this.

If they decide to raise an appeal, you should arrange another meeting. A different and more senior manager should deal with the appeal if possible. Again, the result should be notified to the employee in writing.

If they do not accept the result, they may choose to take the issue to an employment tribunal. We can advise you of your options, including putting a strong defence in place, and where appropriate, suggesting mediation to try and resolve matters by agreement.

How long does an employer have to resolve a grievance?

It is always recommended that a grievance be addressed straightaway. This will demonstrate to your employee that you are dealing with the issue. Involving a solicitor early on will also show that you are serious about responding and that you are protecting your position, which may encourage them to settle the matter.

If you do not deal with the grievance in good time and in accordance with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, you could face an uplift of 25% on any compensation that may be awarded at a tribunal.

Once a grievance has been raised, you should aim to hold a meeting within five working days, allowing the employee adequate time to prepare and arrange for someone to attend the meeting with them.

As an employer, once you have had the meeting, you are entitled to a reasonable amount of time to investigate the issue. You should advise the employee at the end of the meeting when you will give them a decision. If there are delays, you will need to advise the employee of these and tell them why the delay has occurred and how long it will be.

Can an ex-employee raise a grievance?

While the Acas Code does not specifically state that an employer must deal with a grievance raised by a former employee, it is recommended that you should address this. The Code’s underlying legislation does refer to ex-employees, and you could risk being penalised by a tribunal if you fail to respond to a grievance, even if the individual no longer works for you. Case law exists that supports this, with an uplift in tribunal compensation being awarded where employers have failed to follow grievance procedures.

Our employee grievance solicitors’ fees

We believe that employers should be able to access excellent quality legal advice at competitive rates. We have a reputation for providing this, together with outstanding client service.

We offer fixed fees for some work so that you will know exactly how much our costs will be for this. Where fixed fees are not available, we will give you a clear estimate of the likely costs before we start work, and we will let you know the hourly rate of the individuals who will be dealing with your case.

Find out more about our hourly rates and the way we charge for our work.

Speak to our grievance procedures solicitors in Eastbourne and Hastings

From our offices in Eastbourne and Hastings, our team advises employers all across East Sussex, including in Bexhill-on-Sea, Hailsham, Polegate, Battle, Pevensey and St Leonards-on-Sea.

To find out how we can help with employee grievance procedures advice for employers, please contact our expert team now:

How can we help you?

Call us today on 01323 644222 to get the specialist help you need.