Got a complaint about something at your work? Do you know your rights?

Our Guide to the ACAS Code of Practice – Part 3 Grievance – tells you “What you need to know”

Following our previous instalments in this mini-series; Part 1 looked at the Basic principles of the ACAS Code of Practice and Part 2 looked at Disciplinary situations.

Here is the final instalment in our series focussing on he ping you get to know your rights in Grievance situations at work:

So, what’s important in a Grievance situation?

Let’s start with some general basics: fundamentally a grievance is a formal complaint raised by an employee to their employer.

Informal approach

But let’s just take a moment to think about this, as before things get to a ‘formal’ situation, there should be opportunity to try and resolve things informally (although this does of course depend on the very nature of the complaint you make).  In essence, if there’s a problem with something at work, the best thing you can do is to talk to your manager about it.  Don’t wait until the problem, or the you feel about the problem, gets worse, try and have a reasonable conversation, you might just be surprised at how effective that communication can be in dealing with the issue and making you feel better about things.

But, sometimes, because your ‘complaint’ is more serious, or let’s face it not all managers are very sensitive to dealing with complaints…. you may feel that you need to use the formal grievance process.  Here follows some key steps in raising a grievance and how things should be handled by your employer:

A formal grievance

In any instance where you feel so aggrieved you need to raise a formal complaint, you are highly likely to be emotionally charged and/or anxious or destressed.  So, our first tip is to take a breath.  You need to take some time to collect your thoughts and capture your complaint clearly in writing.  This is the first step of raising a grievance.  The more articulate you can be the better.  It can be helpful to use a timeline to capture details, and specifics of your complaint.

Grievance meeting

The next step is for a grievance meeting to be arranged, without unreasonable delay (it’s that word again!) and for you to attend a formal meeting to discuss your grievance with a manager that has not previously been involved in your grievance.

All grievance meeting attendees are expected to make all reasonable efforts to attend the meeting.

Your right to be accompanied

All workers have a statutory right to be accompanied at a grievance meeting.  This means you have the right to attend your grievance meeting along with a fellow work colleague or trade union representative (your companion).

If your chosen companion in not available at the time of your grievance meeting, your employer is expected to rearrange the meeting to a suitable date and time proposed by you and your companion.  You must make sure that it is a ‘reasonable’ request and it is within five working days of the original proposed meeting date.

During your grievance meeting, your companion is allowed to participate in the meeting.  By this we mean that they are allowed to sum up your case and respond to the grievance hearer on your behalf, as well as confer with you during the meeting.  What they are not allowed to do though, is answer questions on behalf of you.  If you are asked a question, then you are expected to answer it for yourself.  Your companion should also not stop your employer from explaining their case in the meeting.

During the grievance meeting

You should be given the opportunity to explain your grievance and how you think it could be resolved.

You or the grievance hearer are entitled to request an adjournment to the meeting, should you need to confer with your companion or should the grievance hearer need to undertake necessary investigations in to your grievance.

Grievance outcome

You will receive confirmation of your grievance outcome in writing along with any action the grievance hearer thinks is appropriate to resolve your grievance.  Of course the outcome might not be one you are happy with.  So in the event that you are not content with the grievance outcome, you are entitled to appeal against the decision.

Your grievance appeal

If you feel that your grievance has not been resolved to your satisfaction, you need to set out your reasons and grounds for appeal clearly in writing, without unreasonable delay and send it to your employer.

Your appeal should be heard by someone other than the original grievance hearer.  That person should, wherever possible, be impartial and unconnected with your grievance case.  Your appeal should also be heard without unreasonable delay and a time and place agreed with you.

As with the grievance meeting, you have the right to be accompanied to your appeal meeting too. And, as was the case with your original grievance, the outcome of your appeal should be confirmed in writing to you, as soon as possible.

What if I want to raise a grievance when I am already in the disciplinary process?

It is often common for there to be some overlap with a grievance you may feel you want to raise and an ongoing disciplinary situation you may find yourself in.  It’s therefore handy to know that you do still have the right to raise a grievance in these circumstances, and the disciplinary process may be temporarily suspended by your employer while your grievance is heard.

It’s important to recognise though, that if your grievance is directly related to your disciplinary case it may be appropriate for your employer to deal with both issues at the same time.


So that brings us to the end of this little mini series covering your rights and the ACAS Code of Practice for Disciplinary and Grievance.  We really hope you’ve found this helpful and easy to follow.

We know that while we do our best to give you access to knowledge you might find helpful in your workplace, there may well be times that you need more advice for specific issues, situations and circumstances, because whilst we’ve emphasised it lots to you, not all employers behave reasonably towards their employees in situations of disciplinary or grievance.  That’s where our dedicated team of HR Solver Experts are on hand to help and guide you.