What you can expect at a fair grievance hearing
Published 02 March 2020
We live in an age when people are not afraid to complain, but do you really know what to expect if you lodge a formal complaint at work?
You can raise a formal grievance at work at any time for any number of reasons.
The ACAS Code of Practice describes a grievance as concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers (1).
You can submit a formal grievance against a colleague or more senior member of staff. Your employer should have a written grievance policy that explains how you can raise a grievance and that details how you can expect it to be managed.
The grounds for grievance can vary and relate to any type of unfair treatment that includes, but is not limited to the following:
• Discrimination – If you are treated unfavourably because of gender, sexuality, race, religion, pregnancy and maternity or disability.(2)
• Bullying and harassment - behaviour that makes you feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 (3)
• Unlawful deduction of wages – If you have not been paid or have been underpaid wages (4)
Your grievance should be submitted in writing. Where appropriate an initial informal attempt is encouraged to attempt to resolve any grievance. If that does not work then a formal grievance hearing will be arranged.
So what should happen at a formal grievance hearing and what should you expect as part of a fair procedure?
Where practicable the grievance hearing should be chaired by someone not involved in your case. Your employer should also arrange for someone not involved in your case to take notes and to act as a witness if necessary.
A grievance hearing is a chance for you to fully explain your grievance and provide evidence and details of any witnesses who can support it.
You have a statutory right to be accompanied at a grievance hearing by a colleague, trade union representative or an official employed by a trade union (5).
Your companion can address the meeting, put your case, sum it up, respond on your behalf to any view expressed and confer with you during the meeting. They cannot answer questions put directly to you.
Special arrangements can be made for the hearing if required. If an employee has trouble speaking English an interpreter can attend the hearing. Where an employee has a disability an employer should consider if it needs to make any reasonable adjustments (6).
At the hearing the chair will make the introductions and explain the process.
The meeting should be an open discussion and dialogue with the aim being to find an amicable solution to the matter.
You should be allowed to clarify the points of grievance documented in your grievance letter. The letter is often used by an employer as a guide to the main points under discussion.
It can take a tremendous amount of courage to raise a formal grievance and a lot of emotion can be involved. During the hearing when recalling incidents you may get upset or let off steam.
The meeting should not be time restricted and you can ask for an adjournment or break at any time.
Your employer may wish to clarify points of the grievance and ask you questions about certain aspects of it.
Key to your employer resolving your grievance is it understanding how you want it to be resolved, so think about what your desired outcome is and be prepared to discuss it.
Once your grievance has been heard your employer should explain what will happen next and when an outcome will be provided, considering any time limits within company policy.
Preparation is key for a grievance hearing. Read your grievance letter prior to the meeting so you are clear on what you are going to discuss; document any important dates, rough dates or incidents and provide details during the meeting; and take a companion, stay calm and be cooperative.
1 Acas code of practice [Internet] acas.org.uk [cited2.3.20] https://www.acas.org.uk/acas-code-of-practice-for-disciplinary-and-grievance-procedures/html
2 Check if your problem at work is discrimination [Internet] www.citizensadvice.org.uk [cited 2.3.20] https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/discrimination-at-work/checking-if-its-discrimination/check-if-your-problem-at-work-is-discrimination/
3 Bullying and harassment [internet] www.gov.uk [cited 2.3.20] https://www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment
4 Unlawful deduction of wages [internet] castleassociates.org.uk [cited 2.3.20] https://castleassociates.org.uk/ask-the-expert/watch/what-unlawful-deductions-wages
5 Right to be accompanied [internet] www.legislation.gov.uk http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/26/section/10 [cited 2.3.20]
6 What are reasonable adjustments [internet] www.equalityhumanrights.com [cited 2.3.20] https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/what-are-reasonable-adjustments
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