Grievance In Work – An Introduction

Grievance In WorkA grievance in work is often a major and daunting step.

However, below we cover ways issues at work can be dealt with, including raising a grievance and whether such a step is a good idea.

Issues at work rarely resolve themselves so it is important to focus on what is in your control and to take the necessary steps.

We are specialists in helping people resolve their Grievances / issues at work, either through advice or negotiating an exit.

What is a Grievance?

A grievance can be any concern or problem at work, but is usually a reference to a process where an employee raises a formal complaint at work with the expectation that the employer will investigate it.

There is no legal definition of a grievance.

However, it is usually seen as more than a general moan or expression of dissatisfaction. In most cases, a grievance will be made in writing and marked as a “grievance.” We recommend a grievance takes that form (so is made in writing and clearly marked as a “grievance”.

How To Raise Grievances At Work?

The starting point is to firstly check if your employer has a grievance policy.

If it does, then it is likely to explain how to start a grievance.

If there is no policy or guidance on how to start a grievance, it makes sense to send it in writing to your line manager. If the grievance is about your line manager, consider who else it can be sent to.

As covered below, first consider if a formal grievance is necessary and if it can be dealt with informally instead.

Learning how to write a grievance well is important too.

When Should I Raise a Grievance At Work?

This depends on what you are trying to achieve.
Our general rule is, if you want to stay at the business, you should first try and resolve the issue informally and then formally (if needed) by raising a grievance. However, if you want to leave the business, you start formally with “without prejudice” communications and see if you can agree exit terms (a helpful guide to negotiating an exit can be found following the link in summary section below).

If exit terms are not agreed, then raising a grievance at a later stage may be an option.
Raising a grievance about trivial matters is not a good idea. In most cases, the first step is to try and resolve issues informally via your line manager or HR (as set out above, grievances at work can be stressful).

It is also important to consider what outcome you want from the grievance and to make this clear during the process. You are more likely to get the outcome you want if you make clear what you are looking for. We see lots of grievances that make a complaint, but do not set out what resolution is sought.

If you are having issues at work, we cover some key considerations in this article here.

We cover the main ways to deal with issues at work in this article here.

How should my grievance be dealt with?

If you raise a formal grievance (in writing) then the Acas Code of Practice will apply. This sets out that:

  • The grievance should be in writing.
  • Your employer should acknowledge the grievance and carry out any necessary investigations.
  • You will then be invited to a grievance hearing.
  • You should receive an outcome to your grievance in writing and be afforded the right to appeal the outcome.
  • If you decide to appeal, the appeal must also be in writing.
  • The employer should then hold a grievance appeal meeting, decide if any other investigations are required, and then provide a final outcome in writing.

An employer should investigate and resolve your grievance within a reasonable timeframe and investigate the issues to the extent it is able to reasonably do so. How to write a grievance at work well is an important skill, because if the complaints are not fully understood, they are less likely to be fixed.

There is an implied term in employment contracts that your employer will reasonably and promptly afford redress to any grievance raised. Further, a failure to handle a grievance properly might amount to a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence.

Therefore, the inept handling of a grievance may give rise to a claim for constructive unfair dismissal, if the employee has at least 2-years of continuous service.


If you are experiencing issues at work, first consider if these can be dealt with informally.

If not, think carefully about whether you want to stay employed and fix the issues (in which case a grievance may be an option) or if you would prefer to leave the business (in which case, we recommend that you stay employed and seek to negotiate an exit).

If there is a specific outcome you would like, then make this clear during the grievance process. If you don’t have a specific outcome in mind, consider if a grievance is even necessary (grievances at work are often difficult for all involved).


This blog is for information purposes only. Nothing should be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice and nothing written should be construed as legal advice or perceived as creating a lawyer-client relationship.

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