Having Issues? - Grievance & Disciplinary Procedures

Grievance and disciplinary procedures are the procedures your employer should have in place to deal with employment issues as they arise. Your employer should outline these procedures in writing in your contract of employment, your employee handbook, the human resources manual, or on the employee intranet.

Grievance Procedures

What is a grievance? A grievance is a complaint, concern or problem that you may have with your job or working environment. For example, you may have a grievance concerning your pay, discrimination or harassment in the workplace, your working conditions, or a disagreement with a colleague.

It is a good idea to try and resolve your grievance informally with your employer first. You can draw their attention to the issue and they will hopefully be able to sort it out without the need for more formal action.

If it cannot be resolved informally, your employer should have a formal procedure in place that allows you formally to bring your grievance to their attention.

Grievance procedures do not legally have to follow any set format. However, employers are advised to follow the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services (Acas) Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures (the Acas Code).

The Acas Code sets out certain principles that both employers and employees should follow in order to achieve a reasonable standard of behaviour during the grievance procedure.

In order to comply with the Acas Code, your employer’s grievance procedure should ideally contain three steps:

  • Written statement of grievance
  • Meeting with your employer
  • Opportunity to appeal

The Acas Code recommends that you put your grievance in writing and send it to your employer, stating that you wish to make a formal complaint. You should include all the details of your grievance and try to include a suggestion as to what you would like your employer to do about it.

The next step of the Acas Code is a meeting between you and your employee. The meeting should be arranged at a reasonable time and place, and the aims should be to establish the facts and reach a suitable resolution.

You have a statutory right to be accompanied to the grievance meeting by a colleague, trade union representative or trade union official.

Finally, your employer should offer you the opportunity to appeal their decision if you are not happy with it.

Disciplinary procedures

Your employer may need to discipline you for a number of reasons. It is their way of telling you that your performance or conduct is not acceptable and needs to improve.

Your employment contract or employee handbook should outline the circumstances that will lead to your employer initiating formal disciplinary action against you.

Disciplinary procedures, like grievance procedures, do not have a prescribed format set out in employment law. However, the Acas Code applies to them as well as grievance procedures.

Acas recommends similar steps to the grievance procedure:

  • Written letter setting out the issue
  • Meeting with employer
  • Opportunity to appeal

Your employer should send you a written letter outlining the conduct or performance that has led to their decision to take action against you. This letter gives you an opportunity to prepare your response.

The meeting should take place in the same way and for the same reasons as the grievance meeting. However, if the disciplinary action concerns serious allegations against you, for example assault or theft, you may be able to be accompanied by an employment solicitor.

The Acas Code recommends that there be an appeal process in place for you to use if you do not agree with your employer’s decision.

Why are procedures important?

You may have an employment claim against your employer if they have failed to follow the correct grievance or disciplinary procedure. If you have been treated unfairly or discriminated against because you brought a formal grievance, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer.

In addition, if you have been dismissed as a result of the grievance procedure, you may have an unfair dismissal claim against your employer.

If your employer did not follow the grievance procedure contained in your employment contract, you may have a claim for wrongful dismissal as this will count as a breach of contract.

Job Justice can help

We can put you in touch with one of our local employment solicitors. Simply call us for free on 0800 533 5799 or fill in our online contact form and we’ll be in touch to discuss your situation.


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