Setting up a grievance procedure - checklist

Reviewed by Suzanne Staunton, employment barrister, Guildhall Chambers

Sign saying complaints on notice board

If your employees want to file a grievance, there should be a fair and clear way to do this. Read our tips on setting up a grievance procedure.

  • Produce a simple, written procedure for employees - written complaint, face-to-face interview, appeal - this should comply with the Acas Code of Practice.
  • Give the name or job title of the person employees should contact in the case of a grievance in the written terms of employment.
  • Encourage employees to handle grievances informally - without triggering your formal grievance procedure if possible - but to take them further if necessary.
  • Tell employees they must present a written grievance to their immediate supervisor as the first step of a formal complaint.
  • Arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss the complaint in every case. Allow the employee at least three working days' notice to prepare their case.
  • Ensure you respond to any grievance in writing where it is not possible to meet the employee face-to-face (for example, where the employee has already left).
  • Stress the importance of addressing grievances and trying to analyse the root cause of apparently trivial grievances.
  • Decide whether you want to involve an external adviser or body, such as Acas, for grievances which cannot be handled internally.
  • Set rules for handling special cases: for example, if the grievance relates to the supervisor, or is particularly sensitive (eg discrimination).
  • Establish a procedure for addressing collective grievances (eg through a recognised trade union).
  • Set a time limit for producing a written response to any grievance.
  • Provide for confidential interviews, if necessary, particularly where grievances relate to other employees. Clarify the right to be accompanied to the interview (eg by a union representative).
  • If grievances arise in connection with a disciplinary issue, hear them as part of the disciplinary appeal; otherwise keep disciplining separate.
  • Encourage employees to raise legitimate grievances; reassure them that it will be kept confidential and that they will not be victimised as a result.
  • Train managers to discuss grievances openly, calmly and fairly, and to make considered decisions.
  • Explain that the employee has the right to appeal; if possible, any appeal should be heard by someone senior who has not been involved in the initial hearing.
  • Keep simple, confidential records.

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