All companies should have a grievance procedure in place that employees are aware of. This ensures that if employees do have any issues, they know that there is a formal route to follow if necessary.

 ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have a Code of Practice on how to deal with grievances, which is an excellent reference point. However, here are a few tips on how to deal with grievances should you have or encounter one:

Getting shouted at
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What is a grievance?

First of all, a grievance is defined as a problem or a complaint. It can include issues such as working practices, health and safety, and terms and conditions of employment.

Best practice

Now you know what a grievance is, you need to think about how you can avoid grievances in the first place! Open communication with all your employees is a great way to start – ensure that workplace communication is regular and informative, encourage employees to ask questions and be as transparent as you can be about on-going business issues.

If there is regular communication and consultation (where appropriate) with employees (and trade unions if applicable), grievances are much less likely to occur.

Dealing with a grievance


If an employee wants to meet with you to discuss a grievance that they have, try to deal with it informally. Sit down and talk with the employee about their concerns. This is often the most effective way of trying to get to the bottom of the employee’s issue. Very often “nipping issues in the bud” through an informal chat will stop them escalating into something much bigger.

However, even with informal approaches, you must ensure that you are following the ACAS Code of Practice and also any grievance procedure that you have in place. For example, it is a good idea to make a note of what was discussed and how the issue was resolved. The employee can have a copy too – remember it is all about being transparent.

Communication is about listening as well as speaking

…and formally

There may be occasions when you have tried to resolve the grievance informally and it didn’t work so you need to move on to the formal process. Again, remember to refer to the ACAS Code and any procedures that you have in place to check how you need to deal with this, but some pointers are below:

Bullet point - ArrowEmployees will usually be required to refer their grievance in writing to their direct manager (unless the grievance is related to the direct manager). The manager then needs to arrange a meeting to listen to the employee’s grievance. Dependent on the nature of the grievance, some investigatory work may need to be carried out before the grievance meeting takes place.

Bullet point - ArrowRemember that at the grievance meeting, the employee has the right to be represented by a trade union representative/official or a co-worker.

Bullet point - ArrowThe manager chairing the meeting must ensure that the employee has every chance to go through their grievance and highlight their issues of concern. It is good practice to ask the employee how they want their grievance to be resolved.

Bullet point - ArrowAn independent person (i.e. someone not connected with the grievance) to take notes at the meeting is really useful – it is very hard to chair a meeting and take notes at the same time!

Bullet point - ArrowThe manager hearing the grievance must really listen to the employee’s concerns, ask relevant questions and be very clear that they have all the information required in order to make a decision on the grievance. If necessary, the grievance meeting can be adjourned whilst further investigations are conducted.

Bullet point - ArrowThe employee must be told the outcome of the grievance in writing as soon as possible after the meeting – remember to check your procedure for any defined timescales. You may be upholding the grievance, not upholding it or maybe upholding it in part only.


If the employee doesn’t agree with the decision of the manager, they are entitled to appeal against the decision, (again, check your procedure for any defined timescales). Remember that a more senior manager will need to hear any further appeal.

Remember – Confidentiality is vital at all stages of a grievance procedure.

If you are unsure about any aspect of dealing with a grievance then do take some professional advice. In my experience formal grievances don’t happen that often so it is always best to check that you are on the right lines with your approach!

For further details and advice contact Helen Straw at

Helen Straw is the founder and managing director of The Personnel Partnership based in Holmfirth, which provides bespoke HR services on both an operational and strategic level for businesses nationwide.