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Raising an issue at work

Problems, or concerns about working conditions, or people who we work with, can happen at any time. Employees may need to talk to their manager about the issues. These are often called grievances. The law protects people submitting a formal grievance but the process can make relationships difficult and it isn't always possible to achieve as good an outcome from a grievance hearing as from a less formal discussion. For this reason employees should try and sort out any issues informally first if possible.

Key points

  • Problems at work - employees should tell their employer as soon as possible.
  • An informal approach - it's usually best to try and resolve an issue informally first.
  • A formal complaint - if an informal approach doesn't work, then employees will need to raise the issue formally.
  • Rules and procedures - employers should have these in place for employees to follow if they have a problem.

Issues that may lead to concerns from employees.

  • Discrimination - treating people differently because of a protected characteristic.
  • Changes in the workplace - such as changing the type or volume of work done by a team.
  • New working practices - new systems may have been put in place without giving employees proper training.
  • Health and safety - work related stress.
  • Work relations - not "getting on" with a person at work.
  • Terms and conditions of employment - employers may have brought in a change to terms and conditions, such as different working patterns.

Raising an issue at work video

When there's a problem at work, it should be tackled quickly. But which is best - the informal approach or using a formal channel for grievances? Our advisors explain your options.

Dealing with issues informally

Good communications and a culture where line managers have a positive attitude regarding concerns, and where employees are not afraid to come forward with their concerns can help resolve issues at the informal stage.

Employees may feel uncomfortable or nervous about raising a concern informally. However, they need to consider the implications of going through a formal grievance process.  When an employee raises a grievance with an employer they start a formal process that some staff can find highly stressful.  The law provides protection for staff to prevent them from being penalised for raising grievance, but the process can understandably make relationships difficult.

Rules and procedures should be put in place by employers which explain how employees can raise concerns or problems informally, or formally. Any procedure should ensure that when a problem or concern is raised, it will be dealt with quickly and fairly.

Whenever possible employees should try to resolve any problems, or concerns informally with their line manager first. Many problems can often be settled or resolved quickly by having a quiet word. Sorting things out at an early stage may stop any issues from getting worse, and may remove the need to make a formal grievance.

When an employee tells a manager about a problem they should arrange a meeting to talk about the issues, and try to resolve them promptly. Managers should allow the employee to fully explain what the problem or issue is, and how they think it may be put right. In some cases it may not be possible to resolve the issue in the way an employee would like, this could be due to company rules, or the need for fairness. Sometimes an independent person such as a mediator can help solve problems, especially if the issue involves working relationships. Mediation involves an independent, impartial person helping two or more individuals or groups reach a solution that's acceptable to everyone. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential form of alternative dispute resolution.

Raising a formal grievance

Resolving a problem informally is not always possible, where this is the case the next step for an employee would be to consider making a formal complaint. This should be done in writing, setting out what the problem or concern is. Employers should have rules and procedure for an employee to follow when they wish to raise a formal grievance. Once a formal grievance has been made, the employer should hold a meeting, the aim of the meeting is to establish the facts and find a way to resolve the problem.