Workplace Grievance

UK's Employment Act 2008, the ACAS Code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is of significant importance to manage workplace grievances. Read on.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: April 26, 2022
  • 5 Minutes
workplace grievance

Handling workplace grievances can be a tricky task. Treating all parties fairly whilst staying within the required legal frameworks can be a difficult balancing act. One in which the result of failure can lead to dire consequences for a company.

In this article we will look at grievances in detail. We will discuss what constitutes a workplace grievance and how best to. Let’s get started.

What Is a Workplace Grievance?

Well, a grievance is any complaint that an employee could make to their employer about their workplace, colleagues, or treatment. It can be about their contract of employment, perhaps some terms and conditions. But, more often than not, it’s about another employee, or the treatment at the hands of their manager.

What Can Cause a Workplace Grievance?

Grievances typically arise because of a variety of reasons. These include:

  1. Grievances resulting from working conditions. This can be for things like insufficient breaks or health and safety issues.
  2. Grievances resulting from personal treatment. This can be as a result of mistreatment from a manager or other staff member. It may also include harassment and discrimination issues.
  3. Grievances resulting from management policy. This can be as a result of a business breaking statutory holiday requirement or other guidelines set out in the Working Time Directive 1998.
  4. Grievances concerning wages. An employee can raise a grievance if they believe their pay is incorrect or insufficient
  5. Grievances from a poor working environment. These issues often fall under Health and Safety law so need to be addressed quickly.
  6. Grievances about perceived favouritism. Sometimes employees may feel that other staff members are being treated better than them.

Can a Grievance be Dealt with Informally?

Cases of minor misconduct or unsatisfactory behaviour that result in a grievance are usually best dealt with informally. A quiet word is often all that is required to improve an employee’s conduct and alleviate the issues that caused the grievance in the first place. In some cases, additional training, coaching and advice may be needed. 

An informal approach may be particularly helpful in small firms, where problems can be resolved quickly and confidentially. There will be situations where matters are more serious or where an informal approach has been tried but is not working.

If informal action does not bring about an improvement, or the misconduct leading to the grievance is considered too serious, employers should provide employees with a clear signal of their dissatisfaction by taking formal action.

Remember, the most important thing is that the employee is satisfied with the handling of the grievance. So, it doesn’t matter whether the matter is dealt with formally or informally so long as they feel it has been dealt with.

If An Employee Puts Their Grievance in Writing, Does It Have to Be Dealt with Formally?

No, not necessarily. A grievance doesn’t have to dealt with formally just because it has been written down. It really depends on the issue and the circumstances. The opposite is also true if an employee doesn’t put the issue in writing. A business may still want to deal with it formally. It really depends on the circumstances. If somebody is complaining verbally about some inappropriate behaviour, the company may decide to deal with it formally if they consider it to be serious enough. The most important thing is that the business deals with the matter and are seen to be dealing with it. 

What Happens if A Grievance is Dealt with Formally?

If a company decides they are going to deal with a grievance formally, they will need to have a meeting with the individual or individuals involved, and they will need to be given the right to representation. During the meeting the business will try to find out as much as they can about the issue.

Once the meetings have taken place, those investigating the grievance would go away and look into the matter further. They may choose to speak to other staff members to get a better picture of the grievance. The findings of the investigation would then need to be relayed to the affected parties. This can be done in a further meeting or in writing. Even if a company is to speak to the employee raising the grievance to explain any decisions made, it is important that records are kept as evidence and for future reference.  

What Are the Possible Outcomes of a Grievance? 

This will often depend on the nature of the grievance. 

  • Bullying and Harassment

If the grievance is about bullying and harassment, it might be a good idea to move the affected employee(s) to a new role, another department, another line manager or even another office.

If this isn’t possible, then business should make efforts to improve relationships between the employees in question. This may be through some kind of mediation and may even involve training. Expectations of future behaviour should also be made clear. 

If disciplinary action is taken, then warnings may be issued, and dismissal considers on top of the measures detailed above. 

  • Excessive Workload

The issue of excessive workload frequently comes up in the modern workplace. If a business receives a grievance relating to excessive workload, they may be tempted to say that the employee will just have to get on with. The risk of doing this is unhappy employees, excessive absence through sickness, and problems recruiting staff. 

To combat these problems, it’s essential to make sure staff know what support is available, and how they should raise concerns. When they are raised, look at how work can be balanced more effectively and consider hiring more staff. 

  • Management Decisions

This theme can cover a wide variety of issues from pay decisions, promotion/recruitment decisions, or a general sense of something being unfair. Often the fundamental issue raised is down to a lack of transparency around decision-making, leaving employees to perceive unfairness.

In terms of a realistic outcome to grievances of this type, consider the specific issue raised, with an open mind. Even if the decision being complained about can’t be changed, a reasonable outcome may be to ensure more clarity around decisions in future.

What Laws Cover Grievances in the UK?

The most important provisions governing discipline and grievances at work are found in the Employment Act 2008 and Employment Regulations 2008. The ACAS Code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is also of significant importance.

In Conclusion

Grievances in the workplace can be a tricky thing to handle. But with the help of our Workplace Grievance guide, we hope you will feel more armed to deal with issues in the future.

manage rota timesheet and employee absence management on the cloud
Free Trial
Manage Rota, Timesheet & Staff Absence Online
  • Online Rota Planning
  • Staff Timesheet Management
  • Absence & Vacation Approval
  • Payroll Management
  • Friendly Support Team
Rated 4.9/5 by Rota Planners, Admins & Employees
14 days free trial


Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)