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Handling grievances at work

It's always best to try to address workplace grievances informally and at as early a stage as possible. However, if a particular grievance can't be resolved in this way, then having a formal procedure in place can help avoid later tribunal action.

Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints raised by a member of staff. They may arise over issues such as terms and conditions of employment, health and safety, relations with colleagues or management, organisational change or discrimination.

Grievances are best dealt with at an early stage, informally, with the immediate line manager. This gives everyone involved a chance to resolve matters effectively before they escalate. However, it is not always possible to resolve matters on an informal basis, and this is when it becomes important to have a formal procedure for handling grievances. This formal procedure should always be the last resort when other attempts have failed, and not the first option.

Any formal grievance procedure should, as a first step, require the employee in question to submit a letter to their employer setting out the details of the grievance. They should then be invited to a meeting to discuss the issue, and be entitled to appeal the employer's decision.

Employers are not bound to follow a particular legal process when handling grievances at work. However, the key principles which employers should observe are set out in the Discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice. While failing to follow the Code won't automatically make an employer liable for tribunal action, a tribunal will nevertheless take this failure into account when making a judgment.

Acas also provides training on all aspects of conflict management, including dispute resolution, negotiating skills, mediation and dealing with bullying and harassment.

Visit the Acas training and business solutions area for more information.

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