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It can be an awful and nervous feeling to have to raise a grievance complaint at work. However, as an employee, it is your right to do so, and what comes about as a consequence may actually benefit other employees and the business immeasurably.
Most complaints are around the subject of terms of employment and working conditions, such as unfair pay. Others may stem from discrimination against anything from race and religion to gender and age. Either way, an employee has the right to air his or her grievances, and it may even be a very simple solution to something which has been an issue for you for years.
Consider the following steps carefully if you need to air a grievance at workplace:
The first step in most grievance complaints is to hold an informal meeting with your manager. This can be a daunting task, but donâ€™t worry; you donâ€™t have to be alone. Legally, youâ€™re able to be accompanied by either a trade union representative or an employee rep. As part of some contracts, you may even be able to be accompanied by family members or a worker from the Citizenâ€™s Advice Bureau.
Before the meeting, you should set out your aims and objectives â€“ write them all down, including what your ideal resolution would be to the problem. If you like, you could even take this into the meeting and let it guide you through voicing your complaint clearly and cohesively.
If a resolution cannot be agreed upon in the initial meeting, you should start a formal procedure to air your grievance. Your employers should have their own procedure for this available in writing in the company handbook or on the HR intranet site. Included in this will normally be a letter to be written to the employer, setting out the details of the complaint, followed by a formal meeting.
If, again, no resolution is found, then you should appeal your employerâ€™s decision by writing a second letter within a time limit as specified in the employerâ€™s grievance procedure. Appeal meetings will then be held, in which you can also be accompanied by a representative.
When a workplace conflict resolution seems to be out of the question, it is time to bring in a mediator. They will weigh up the arguments from both yourself and your employer and try to come to an arrangement which seems fair to an impartial third party. If you think you can make a claim to an employment tribunal, or already have, then conciliation will be needed as a substitute. Both of these are completely voluntary, but often help the situation immeasurably. An alternative would be arbitration, whereby the third partyâ€™s ruling must be agreed to and is legally binding.
If you are not happy with the mediation or arbitration, then an employment tribunal will be needed. The tribunal is effectively taking the complaint to court â€“ they have judicial powers, but it is generally less formal. If your employer doesnâ€™t respond to your tribunal request within 28 days, a judge will rule without hearing their arguments but if it does go to tribunal, both parties will give their arguments and a decision will be reached. If you lose the hearing, then you can still take action, however. Within 42 days of the decision, you can still appeal and ask the tribunal to review your arguments for the grievance.
Whatever stage youâ€™re at with your grievance complaint, you should read up on the procedures in the ACAS guide. If the case does go to tribunal, you will have to prove that you have followed the legal procedures exactly, and havenâ€™t skipped any parts, as it will not be looked on favourably. For further advice and for help to guide you through lodging your complaint, contact the Citizenâ€™s Advice Bureau or a lawyer who specialises in employment law, and make sure that every stage is logged in writing, as this will come in very useful if the initial steps do not come to a conclusion you are happy with.
Written by James Sheehan, a blogger with past legal experience.