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Grievance myths are based on good sense

There are many myths in circulation about the rights and wrongs of making a complaint at work, also commonly known as raising a grievance. One of the most enduring is that a complaint has to be in writing before it can be properly dealt with under grievance procedures.

Another myth is that there's a requirement for employers to provide a copy of grievance procedures, and to name the person who employees should bring their grievance to, as well as the person designated to hear appeals. A third is that having a procedure will automatically protect you from claims.

None of the above are true, and yet the common theme is that all are based on good practice.

The pdf  Code of Practice - Disciplinary and grievance procedures [1Mb] recommends that if complaints can't be resolved with a quiet word, then the nature of the grievance should be set out in writing - though there is no legal requirement for this to be done. It would be unwise to ignore any complaint simply because it had not been made in writing.

Neither is there a legal requirement for identifying who an employee should complain or appeal to. But, it is good practice to do so, and to make everything clear in your employees' Written Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment, which they are entitled to receive within two months of starting work.

The law doesn't stipulate how a grievance should be handled, and following a procedure won't necessarily protect you from a claim. Using one that is fair, clear and consistent will certainly put you in good stead, but some cases require judgement and sensitivity that no written procedure can account for on its own.

While not a legal requirement, it's always best to follow the Acas Code, because failing to do so could cost you more if a dispute ends up before an employment tribunal. Tribunals can adjust awards by up to 25 per cent if they feel employers or employees have failed to comply with guidance set out in the Code.

Acas can help guide you through any grievance situation with its Managing a complaint at work: A step-by-step guide. Related Acas training courses include Discipline and grievance, Having difficult conversations and how to conduct fair and effective Investigations.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions page for more information.

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