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Giving yourself the best chance to get what you want at a grievance hearing

Published 12 October 2021

If you are unhappy with something or feel you are being treated unfairly, you will usually complain - and at work you can do so with a formal grievance.

A grievance is a concern, complaint or problem you have, which you wish to raise with your employer.

It can be as a result of treatment by a colleague or manager, or about proposed changes to the way you work or any other work-related treatment [1 cited 12.10.21]

Prior to a grievance hearing familiarise yourself with your employer’s grievance policy, so you know exactly what to expect at a hearing.

Also think carefully, be reasonable, be realistic and clear about the outcome you want and what you want to achieve.

For example, if you feel bullied you may simply want the perpetrator to know their behaviour is upsetting and for them to stop. Or you may want to move department.

If the matter is much more serious and it has caused you to lose all trust and confidence in your employer, you may wish to discuss a settlement agreement.

A settlement agreement can be used by both sides in a dispute to resolve a problem or end employment [2 cited 12.10.21]

Knowing what you want  prior to a grievance hearing will help you to tailor the presentation of your grievance accordingly.

As with most things, good preparation is key to your chances of success.

You want the presentation of your grievance to be structured, clear and focused.

Start by producing a timeline, a record of everything that could be relevant, or a diary of all key events.

Write it down in a prepared statement, which you can present and talk through at the hearing.

Include dates or rough dates of incidents, reference to evidence or witnesses and details of the detrimental impact matters have had on you.

You can also request from your employer information you believe can be used as evidence to support your grievance.

A grievance is deeply personal to you, but your employer may be defensive at a grievance hearing.

It can throw you off track, create tension,  feel confrontational at times and the meeting become disjointed if you are not properly prepared for it.

Having a written statement and working through it will help you to stick to the facts and not lose focus on the important points you wish to make.

This is imperative, as the arrangements at a grievance hearing can feel overwhelming.

A senior manager will hear your grievance and it is likely they will be supported by a HR advisor, so you may feel unsettled or even intimidated. In some cases, depending on your employer’s grievance policy, a panel can hear your grievance

It is why it is a advisable to arrange beforehand for someone to accompany you at a grievance hearing.

You have a statutory right to take either a colleague, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union to a grievance hearing [3 cited 12.10.21]

If you have a disability you can ask to be accompanied by a friend or relative as a reasonable adjustment [4 cited 12.10.21] However, your employer does not have to agree to it.

Your companion can present and/or sum up your case and confer with you during the meeting, but they cannot answer questions put to you [5 cited 12.10.21]  

It is a good idea to ask to voice record the hearing to ensure there is a accurate record of what is discussed. Your employer does not have to agree to it.

If your employer will not allow you to record the hearing you should be prepared so that either you or your companion can take notes.

It will allow you to make any necessary amendments to the notes of the hearing taken by your employer, which will be the official record of the meeting.

Keeping you emotions in check at a grievance hearing can be difficult. Do not be rude, aggressive or argumentative and realise that you may become upset.

But remember at the hearing you can ask for a break at any time and take as many as you need. And do not be afraid to do so if you feel the meeting is not going the way you want.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 


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