Tom’s Essential Guide To Raising A Grievance

Last update: 14th December 2021

When you are unhappy with something you experience at work, you have the right to pursue raising a grievance with your employer. This page is dedicated to helping you understand the process.

Where you have a concern, complaint or problem that has arisen due to an issue within the workplace, you can seek to resolve it with your employer by raising a grievance. This guide aims to help you fully understand what raising a grievance entails and the correct procedure to follow.

Raising a grievance is not a legally binding process. But, if you or your employer fail to follow the procedure expected, then this could negatively impact the chances of either parties success at Employment Tribunal.

Raising a grievance over a problem at work

What’s the first thing you should do when raising a grievance?

In the majority of cases employers will have their own grievance procedures set out in their staff handbook.

Where this is not the case, they will at least be expected to follow the ACAS Code of Practise on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Set out in your staff handbook, you will find:

  • Information on who you should address your grievance to
  • How you should compile the details of your complaint
  • The process of appealing your employer’s decision
  • The length of time each part of the process should take

What if I can’t find my staff handbook?

Where you don’t have a copy of your staff handbook, you should make a polite request to your employer to get access to one. Once you have it, you should read it very carefully to fully understand what is expected of you.

Do not assume you need to raise it formally at the outset

In the first instance, don’t be surprised to find that your employer’s grievance policy will encourage you to try and deal with your complaint informally when raising a grievance.

Unless you have a serious complaint you may feel comfortable doing this. Where this may be the case you should write an email or simple letter to them (or the HR department) setting out those details of what you want to complain about.

At this stage, ensure you inform them that if at all possible you would like the matter dealt with informally.

Where you feel unable to raise the matter with your immediate line manager, you should feel free to approach another individual in your organisation who holds a position of authority, notify them you are raising a grievance, and explain your issues.

Most typically, you should find your employer appreciative that you are trying to resolve the matter informally. You should expect them to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence. Your employer should then advise you as to how they propose to deal with your issue. This could be by way of an informal meeting with you and any other party who may need to be involved.

If you feel the matter is too serious to be handled informally (or where the informal process has not solved your complaint), you may then need to consider escalating the matter to be addressed by way of a formal grievance.


In the raising a grievance process, before you draft your grievance letter, you should remember that should you advance a claim at Employment Tribunal further down the line, its contents may act an important document to support your case.

So, ensure you:

  • Set out clearly the nature of your complaint
  • Outline briefly any evidence you later come to rely upon
  • Highlights the outcome you are hoping to achieve
  • Proof-read it, ensuring no typographical errors

Feel free to download the grievance letter below, which may save you some time in putting yours together.

What circumstances may require this action?

There are many circumstances that may give rise to you raising a grievance with your employer. They may include:

  • Where you need to raise a Health and Safety concern
  • If you are being subjected to new working practice or organisational changes you are unhappy with
  • You feel the subject of bullying and harassment
  • You feel you should have been considered for promotion and not been given the opportunity to apply
  • You feel forced to do things in your job that you are not happy with
  • You have been subjected to a discrimination detriment within the workplace

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are common reasons that employees choose raising a grievance to try to resolve their issue.

What to include in your grievance letter

Some things should of course be included as standard. Ensure you include your name, address and contact details and address. Put these alongside the full name and address of your employer.

In general, you should make sure your letter:

  • Is not too long (1 to 2 sides of A4 should be sufficient)
  • You keep it unemotional
  • You sticking to the relevant facts of your specific complaint (keep it as concise as possible)
  • It is not disrespectful to the recipient
  • It does not include offensive or abusive language

Keep in mind that your grievance letter is your platform to setting out a summary of your complaint. You will get the opportunity at a later stage to provide more detail during your grievance hearing.

PLEASE NOTE: always include dates to the matters relating to your complaint, plus any witness details that could be used to support them. This will help you employer understand what happened, when it happened, and who they should be speaking to when they investigate the matter in question.

  • If you have already tried to resolve the matter informally, highlight this
  • Place events relating to your complaint in chronological order
  • Provide dates (if unable to give definitive dates you should make reference to an event that it can be related to i.e a week before the company conference in Spring)
  • Specify places and the times the incidents occurred
  • Give the names of any people that were involved (where possible highlight their role or department)
  • Provide details of any witnesses
  • Outline the detail/evidence that would support your complaint
  • Offer up a potential solution for consideration
  • If your matter relates to an issue relating to pay, put forward an idea of what you believe you should be paid

Keep in mind that what you are trying to do in raising a grievance is to find a solution to your compliant. So, when putting forward a solution to your employer, make sure to keep your expectations realistic and reasonable for them to achieve.

Whilst it may seem pretty obvious, be sure you date and sign your letter.

What happens next?

You should get an acknowledgement of receipt of your letter and your employer will should set out how they then propose to deal with your grievance. It would be typical for them to highlight that they will be making an investigation into your matter, and that as part of this process they may wish you and other members of staff to take part in an investigatory meeting.

It is after this initial phase of their investigation is complete that your employer will usually convene a formal grievance meeting. You will be expected to attend this.

On occasion, a company’s grievance policy will actually put forward a time frame under which the company would typically expect to hold a grievance meeting with an employee. However, as in most things, extenuating factors can lead to this timeframe be extended. For example, where the grievance is complex in nature.

How should I prepare for my grievance meeting?

The first thing to note is that whilst you should be be prepared to give any further information at your actual hearing, you must ensure that you provide your employer with all the information and evidence you have gathered in connection to your complaint ahead of your hearing.

Again, you want to come across as a reasonable and cooperative person who is trying their best to help their employer resolve this matter.

In the spirit of transparency, your employer should also notify/remind you of your right to be accompanied to your grievance hearing. You have the right to take a union representative or colleague with you.

Similarly, you have the right to call witnesses to answer your questions. Make sure to ask your employer to arrange for their attendance prior to your meeting.

Prior to the meeting, if you require any witnesses to be available to answer questions, you should ask your employer to arrange this.

What happens after the hearing?

A typical grievance hearing should take no longer than 2 hrs at most. Once it’s concluded you should expect your employer to let you know they will be taking some extra time to consider their findings before giving you their final decision.

In reaching their final decision, you are most likely to receive one of the following 3 outcome decisions by your employer. They may decide to, either:

  • Find in your favour and therefore ‘uphold’ your grievance
  • Dismiss your complaint
  • Or, partially uphold it. (This means they accept your complaint, but only to an extent.)

If your grievance is upheld

If your employer finds in your favour and decides to uphold your grievance, they will most likely indicate the action they intend to take to remedy your compliant. They will then look to your confirmation that you are happy to approve the course of action they suggest.

If your grievance is dismissed

If your employer dismisses your grievance (or, they only partially uphold it) you then have the option to accept their decision or, as is your right, to move forward with an appeal against their conclusion.

Where you choose to appeal, in most circumstances, you will have five working days to make your appeal.

You have the right to appeal and if you choose to do so, you are normally required to make your appeal within 5 working days.

Your grievance appeal letter should be concise and set out why you believe your employer’s decision be be unfair.

Feel free to use our Grievance Appeal Letter PDF below as a guide.

What happens once my appeal letter is submitted?

Much like in the case of your original grievance letter, after you submit your grievance appeal letter, an appeal meeting will be scheduled by your employer.

How will it differ from your original grievance meeting?

When it comes to your appeal hearing, this should now be chaired by a member of staff who was not involved in your original grievance meeting. As previously, it should be in line with your employer’s grievance procedures, within a timeframe that allows you a reasonable time to prepare.

Again, you will be able to argue your case against the findings of the original meeting. So, make sure you prepare as much as possible to challenge these findings.

After the appeal hearing your employer will reach their final decision. Again, this may result in them either upholding, dismissing or partially upholding your appeal.

However, it is important to understand that once they have confirmed their decision there will be no further options you can pursue within your employer’s policies or procedures. As such, you will either:

  • Have to accept their decision and carry on at work
  • Or alternatively, if you feel this leaves your position untenable, you may have no choice but to resign.

If you do decide that resignation in the only course left open to you, you should read my article ‘The 3 crucial questions you need to answer before considering a claim for constructive dismissal‘.


ACAS Early Reconciliation

Whilst your employer’s grievance policies and procedures may have been exhausted following the outcome of your grievance appeal hearing, there may be a further option available to you.

If, for example your original grievance was as a result of you being the subject of discrimination. Even though it was dismissed, you could register a claim with ACAS Early Conciliation in stead of automatically resigning. ACAS’s involvement could help achieve an outcome that both you and your employer are happy with.

Strict Time Limits apply to advancing a claim

If you want to pursue a claim at tribunal you must keep in mind the strict time limits that will apply. You have 3 months (less 1 day) from the date of the thing that you are complaining about (i.e date of discriminatory treatment) to commence the tribunal process.

PLEASE NOTE: Some unscrupulous employers may delay the grievance or grievance appeal process to make you ‘out of time’ to make a claim against them. Been mindful of this and do not allow yourself to fall foul of this.

If you have any concerns about time limitations you should seek early legal advice.

Where your appeal has been overturned, or if you want peace-of-mind from some sound legal advice on how to dealing with a grievance, you can call me for a quick 10 minute telephone consultation.

What to do if you want to pursue a claim

If you want an initial assessment of the strength of your case, speak to one of our approachable team today on 0800 014 8727 or 020 3923 0888. If you prefer, you can submit your information to us 24/7 by using our online enquiry form. In either case, once we have assessed your case, we will respond to you within 48 hours by phone, email or text.

Where you have a viable case, our first consideration is to offer you legal representation using our no win no fee policy.