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How to raise an informal grievance

Published 26 July 2022

The decision to raise a formal complaint at work is not one that should be taken lightly, so is there really an effective way in which you can avoid doing so?

You can feel aggrieved at work for any number of reasons that give you cause to complain e.g. pay and benefits, bullying, work conditions or excessive workload.

If you complain verbally it can be considered an informal grievance, which should be dealt with by your employer.

If you do so in writing, you can still request that in the first instance the matter be dealt with informally.

If you do wish to resolve a grievance in this manner, your employer should arrange to meet you as soon as possible to establish why you are dissatisfied and to look for a solution to the problem.

The benefits in pursuing an informal grievance are that it can be dealt with much earlier, it is less stressful and the matter can still be resolved to your satisfaction.

There are no set rules regarding how to deal with an informal grievance. It is an approach that can even be considered, where practicable, if you are making serious allegations.

If you have a concern, problem or complaint at work your employer should have a grievance procedure that sets out how it will deal with it [(1) cited26.7.22]

Key in that process will usually be an initial first step, which is to attempt an informal approach to resolve a grievance.

It is an approach recommended by the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures [(2) cited 26.7.22] 

The Code guidance does state: Employees should aim to settle most grievances informally with their line manager. Many problems can be raised and settled during the course of everyday working relationships. This also allows for problems to be settled quickly.

A grievance is about you, and most importantly about what you want to sort out a work-related problem.

Do not get caught up in the idea of thinking that if you raise an informal grievance those involved in your complaint will ‘get away with it.’

When a grievance is dealt with formally working relationships can become strained, damaged irreparably and positions polarised.

Resolving a grievance informally means you can discuss with your employer what it is that you want and how you reasonably want to achieve it.

Your employer should meet with you and talk through the matter to get a better understanding of the issue and to establish and agree how it will be dealt with.

For example, you may be upset by a colleague’s behaviour towards you, and sometimes simply making the individual aware of the negative impact their actions are having is enough to make it stop.

If working relationships have become strained, then raising an informal grievance can lead to workplace mediation [(3) cited 26.7.22]. It can be an effective way to mend relationships at work with the help of a mediator.

Or, you may raise an informal grievance because you have been underpaid and believe it is an unlawful deduction of  wages [(4) cited 26.7.22]. It could be the result of a genuine admin error, which is accepted and can be rectified immediately.

The informal approach will not work in all cases. If it does not you can then raise your grievance formally.

You should do so in writing and explain your grounds for grievance. Your employer should then invite you to a formal grievance hearing and then investigate you grievance and give you an outcome and right to appeal if you disagree with the findings.

You should not be made to feel bullied or forced to settle your grievance informally.

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