DJM Solicitors

When does a complaint by an employee turn in to a legal grievance?

One of the hardest things for businesses to manage in a workplace can be grievance procedures. A key thing for business managers to identify is when a complaint from an employee needs to be made official.

A grievance could range from a minor workplace argument to a more serious employment-related issue. Many grievance issues can be dealt with informally, with a conversation or a meeting, for example.

Before resorting to a formal procedure, a business can implement mediation, where an independent third party is brought in to help resolve the problem.

Sometimes this simply isn’t possible, and a grievance will have to be escalated and managed formally.

The ACAS statutory Code on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures says if this is the case an employee should submit a grievance in writing ‘without unreasonable delay’ to a manager who is not the subject of the grievance.

Employers should keep a written record of any disciplinary or grievances cases they deal with. This is to provide evidence should the procedure escalate further.

ACAS also says employers might want to deal with grievances involving serious issues such as bullying, harassment or whistleblowing under a separate procedure.

In the past Employment Tribunals have treated many documents as formal written grievances, even if it was not immediately apparent if they were. It is good practice to assume that any sort of written document from an employee, from anyone acting on their behalf, or from anyone else, indicating that they have a complaint or grievance, is a formal written grievance and treat it as such.

It is worth noting that employees can bring a claim arising from a grievance, or for constructive dismissal, before an Employment Tribunal whether or not they have followed your grievance procedure.

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