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Grievance procedure

The statutory grievance procedures were introduced in the Employment Act 2002 as a minimum set of guidelines. A company can add to the procedure, but cannot detract the core fundamental processes as outlined. All Employers are bound by statutory dispute resolution procedures. Within the statement of terms and conditions of employment any grievance procedures for the Employee must be laid out (or reference to where such documents can be found) so long as the Employer employs more than 20 people.

The person to whom the Employee can apply for redress of any grievances or reference to where such documents can be found must also be included. Usually the Employee should attempt to resolve the situation before grievance procedures are necessary, and only resort to following them if no solution can be amicably found.


Grievances may be expressed about:

  • Management decisions.
  • About Directors.
  • Relationships with other Employees (these include Managers)
  • Conditions.
  • External factors.

Common causes may include:

  • Simple misunderstandings.
  • Communications breakdowns.
  • Unfair treatment
  • Conflict of interests.
  • Petty jealousies.
  • Overly competitive behaviour.
  • Personal frustration – commonly by feeling undervalued or under utilised.
  • Poor performance in others.
  • Excessive and undue discipline.
  • Legal causes such as but not limited to discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

Stages in the procedure

  • The Employee sends to their Employer full details of their grievance in writing.
  • The Employer invites Employee to at least one meeting (after full information given to other employee the grievance is about with the right for them to respond).
  • Employer informs the Employee of the decision they have reached, in writing, with reasons and the right to appeal.
  • Employee informs if they wish to appeal.
  • If the Employee wishes to appeal, Employer must hold a further meeting with the Employee.
  • Employer informs the Employee of the final decision.

Each step must be completed without unreasonable delay, and each meeting must take place at a reasonable location and time. The meetings must be conducted so that all parties gain a clear understanding, and appeals must be held by a higher level of management.

It should also be noted that an Employee has a right to be represented, as laid out in sections 10-15 of the Employment Relations Act 1999. The representative can be a fellow co-worker or a paid Trade Union Official. This right exists if hearing concerns “performance of duty by employer in relation to a worker”. This would apply to contractual duties such as but not limited to underpayment of holiday pay as well as statutory duties such as but not limited to Health & Safety issues.

  • The hearing can be postponed so as to allow the representative to attend.
  • Procedure must be held in good time – cannot postpone unreasonably.

Statutory grievance procedures must be recorded, so there is a record of the complaint(s) and less room for misunderstanding through the process. It also allows an Employee to be able to take their grievance up to the highest management level if necessary. However, there may be no guarantee that the cause of the grievance will necessarily be removed.

Under sections 31 and 32 of the Employment Act 2002, if this minimum statutory procedure is not followed, this can lead to possible fines levied on Employer, or loss of action in Employment Tribunal for an Employee.

If a Statutory Grievance is not investigated to completeness within 28 days of being issued, and if no extension is made “under exceptional circumstances” then the employee is entitled to take the matter further by issuing an Employment tribunal (see links)

Constructive Dismissal cases

It is also important to note that an Employee who fails to make use of the complete statutory grievance procedure before making a claim for constructive dismissal may fail in their claim because of this (see case of Witham v. Hills Shopfitters) unless their action is justified by the seriousness of the Employer’s breach (see case of Seligman & Latz Ltd v. McHugh [1979]). However, if a company does not provide the grievance procedure, this can lead to a successful claim of Constructive dismissal (W A Goold (Pearmark) Ltd v. McConnel [1995]).