QUESTION: I have a grievance. How do I go about raising it?
In all organisations, big and small, whether they be well run or badly run, employees will from time to time have grievances.
No one gets through life without feeling aggrieved at some point.
In the workplace it is critical that such grievances are dealt with and any well run organisation will encourage their employees to discuss issues that make them unhappy at work.
The raising of a grievance does have statutory support, in that all employers are obliged to have a written procedure about how to handle grievance and this should be made known to all employees (Employment Rights Act 1996). It is sometimes in the contract of employment but does not have to be there.
Most employers follow the ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) code of practice and, if your employer has not made you aware of the procedure, it is worth looking this up (acas.org.uk).
It must surely, however, be the case that most grievances can be dealt with informally. You simply have a chat with your line manager who will either resolve the issue for you or explain why it cannot be resolved. Probably 99% of all such grievances are and should be dealt with in this way.
The strongest advice I would give any employee is try this first and do it in a calm and respectful manner. Keep this confidential if you can and don’t complain about it to colleagues before you have spoken to your management.
However, sadly, there are occasions where your grievance is not dealt with at this level and you feel that you have no alternative but to raise a formal grievance. If your employer has a policy, follow that policy but ,if not, presume the ACAS code is in place.
This would normally require you to raise the grievance with your line manager first. Except in the case of the smallest of organisations there will be an appeal, which should be made to a more senior manager. In a large organisation there may be further appeal stages. The manager will normally arrange a hearing.
Personally, I hate the term ‘hearing’ as it has a quasi-judicial tone to it that terrifies all concerned. Whatever it’s called, you have the right to be accompanied. This usually has to be a colleague but can be a union official. This person is not there to represent you. They are there purely as a companion. They may ask questions for you, but it should be you airing the grievance.
The employer is not obliged to resolve your grievance — only to listen to it.
If you still feel aggrieved when the grievance procedure is exhausted, you will either just have to live with it or resign.
If you do resign, you may then be able to make a claim to the Employment Tribunal for constructive dismissal. Your grievance, however, will have to be at a level that constitutes a complete breakdown of trust and confidence in your employer. Unless you are sure you can satisfy that test, it is not recommended. Most claims for constructive dismissal fail. However, if your grievance is not properly heard by the employer, and the grievance is sufficiently severe, this will assist you should you make such a claim.
To summarise, try to air grievances informally in a friendly and respectful way. Only resort to formal procedures when you are certain all other routes have failed and then only if your grievance is serious.