Step 3: Responding to a grievance - Formal grievance procedure

Step 3: Responding to a grievance

Your organisation should have its own formal grievance procedure. This should follow the Acas Code of Practice for disciplinary and grievance procedures, as a minimum.

If your organisation does not have a formal procedure, you should follow the Acas Code.

Where possible, the person who handles the grievance procedure should have had training. Acas offers training in handling grievance procedures.

The Acas Code and the law

You must follow a full and fair procedure in line with the Acas Code for any discipline or grievance case. The procedure you've followed will be taken into account if the case reaches an employment tribunal.

If anything similar has happened before

To keep things fair an employer should do all of the following:

  • aim to follow the same fair procedure
  • gather evidence from all sides
  • consider all the information

Keeping written records

The employer should keep written records of what takes place during the grievance procedure. This includes:

  • what the grievance is about
  • any decisions and actions taken, and why
  • whether the employee appeals the grievance outcome

Protecting personal information

The employer should keep all personal information confidential.

If the grievance is about someone else at work

Before getting more information and evidence, the employer should:

  • avoid assuming anything about the grievance or the people involved
  • be sensitive to the circumstances and needs of the person the grievance is about, as well as the person who raised the grievance

Deciding on disciplinary action

An employer should not discipline anyone involved in a grievance before getting all the information and evidence they can.

Find out more about the disciplinary procedure

If there are concerns about employees in a grievance case working together while the grievance is looked into, the employer should consider what else they can do in the short term.

For example, where an employee has said that someone at work is bullying them, the employer could see whether work schedules can be rearranged temporarily so that the two people do not work together.

If the employer takes this type of action, they should make clear to the employees that it's not a punishment but a temporary change while they look into the grievance.


The employer should investigate the grievance so that they can make a fair decision about the grievance.

Find out more about investigations

If a crime could have occurred

If the grievance could be a criminal matter, for example it's related to an assault, the police might need to be involved.

Employers and employees should use their own judgement about when to involve the police.

Keep talking

It's important for the employer to keep talking confidentially with:

  • the employee who raised the grievance
  • anyone else involved in the grievance

Clear, regular and confidential communication can help avoid:

  • misunderstandings
  • a drop in work morale
  • stress or other mental health problems
  • further action, such as more grievances
  • legal action later on

Looking after employees' wellbeing and mental health

Going through a grievance procedure can be very stressful for everyone involved. This includes: 

  • the person the grievance is about
  • the person raising the grievance

Looking out for employees' wellbeing and offering support can help prevent:

  • absence
  • mental health problems arising
  • existing mental health problems getting worse
For example, as well as regular communication, the employer could arrange any meetings in a more private and comfortable location if this would help an employee.

Find more advice on supporting mental health at work

Grievances about a customer, client or anyone else who does not work for the organisation

The employer should follow the formal grievance procedure in the same way.

If a grievance is raised while a disciplinary is taking place

The employer can pause the disciplinary procedure and deal with the grievance first. If the disciplinary and grievance cases are related, the employer can deal with both at the same time.

If a grievance is raised by more than one employee

If more than one person in an organisation has the same grievance, it might be best to raise it collectively.

The employer and employees should follow your organisation's 'collective grievance' policy.

If your organisation does not have this, the employees could:

  • get more information from their trade union or workplace representative
  • raise the grievance themselves, for example by agreeing on one person to raise it and communicate for all of them

Using mediation

You can use mediation at any stage.

Find out more about mediation at work

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