Grievance and disciplinary advice in Sussex
If you’re going through a grievance process or disciplinary procedure at work, it can be a worrying and stressful time. From our Worthing office, we support employees across Sussex including Brighton, Bognor Regis, Littlehampton and Chichester on both raising a formal grievance at work, and defending a disciplinary procedure.
Although procedures are well-defined by Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service ( (ACAS), the process may still be daunting for individuals facing the process for the first time.
What is a grievance at work?
A grievance procedure is a formal way that you, as an employee, can raise a complaint with your employer. If you have a problem, otherwise known as a grievance, at work, it’s usually a good idea to raise the issue with your employer informally.
If you feel that an informal approach has not worked, or the grievance relates to a very serious issue, such as sexual harassment or whistleblowing, then you should raise the concern formally. Your employer should have its own grievance procedure, otherwise you must follow the steps in the ACAS Code of Practice.
Stages of a formal grievance procedure
Understanding your options when it comes to progressing a grievance is important. The first is to determine whether you want to raise it informally (which we’d usually advise in the first instance) or informally (either in the first instance, or as a result of an informal discussion reaching no resolution).
At any stage, you can choose to involve mediation, which is where an independent and impartial party, either from inside or outside your organisation, becomes involved to help reach a solution.
Raising a grievance
As we mentioned, you should raise a grievance in accordance with your company’s grievance policy; it’s within this that you should find out how to do so, who to send it to, and what the full procedure is.
In the absence of a policy that outlines this process, you should approach your line manager in the first instance, or someone in HR, or another trusted person within the organisation if you do not feel comfortable talking to your line manager.
You should raise your grievance in writing, either via email or letter, and make clear what the grievance is about, the evidence you have to support it, and what action you would like your employer to take.
Responding to grievance
Response to the grievance should be handled by someone with training, ideally, and should be based around gathering facts and evidence around the grievance; no disciplinary action should take place at this stage.
The employer should thoroughly investigate the grievance, talk to anyone involved (including those who raised the grievance), and be mindful of confidentiality and the mental health of those involved.
A grievance meeting should be arranged as a result of a formal grievance being raised, and should be held without ‘reasonable delay’ which really should be within 5 working days. If similar grievances have happened before, the employer should follow the same fair process. Employees have a right to be accompanied to a grievance meeting; this could be a colleague, or a trade union rep.
During the meeting, employers should take notes as a confidential record of who attended, what was said, evidence that was gathered, and whether any conclusions or resolutions were drawn or reached.
This is an opportunity for the employee that raised the grievance to explain how they feel and/or what happened, show any evidence they’ve gathered, and ask any questions. For the employer, they can share any information they have, and outline how it could be resolved.
It is down to the employer to reach the best outcome following the meeting, and they should base their decision on the findings from the meeting and evidence gathering, what is fair and reasonable in this situation, and what has been done before by the organisation in similar instances.
Employees should be informed of the outcome in writing as soon as possible, even if the employer decides that no action is needed.
Employees have the right to appeal the decision if the outcome does not resolve the problem, or if any part of the grievance procedure was unfair.
After the grievance
Following a grievance procedure, an employer should remind those involved that the grievance remains confidential, and confirm that it is now finished. Records should be kept of what happened and how it was dealt with for future reference, in line with GDPR.
Investigations at work
An investigation at work can take place in the event of a disciplinary procedure or grievance process. This is to ensure that it’s confirmed that there is a case to answer, ensure fair treatment, and gather evidence. It should be done by someone not involved in the case (such as someone from HR), and should follow a plan that sets out elements of the investigation such as witnesses, evidence, and timeframes.
Any involved employees should be informed as soon as possible once a decision has been made to investigate.
Suspension from work
In some instances, an employer may decide to suspend an employee from work while they’re being investigated. This could be if the issue is particularly serious, and should only be done if there is no other option.
Disciplinary advice for employees
Disciplinary action can be taken by an employer to address an employee’s conduct or performance. The ACAS Code states that the employer’s procedures must be fair, and that natural justice should be part of the fair procedure. The Code is seen as an influential guide to tribunals when deciding on unfair dismissal, but it is not legally binding.
What counts as misconduct?
Inappropriate behaviour or actions that break an organisation’s rules count as misconduct, and may be specific to the role or industry. This could include refusing to do your work, bullying or harassing a colleague, or being absent without permission.
If misconduct happens outside of the workplace that reflects badly on the company, such as at a Christmas party, it can still be dealt with by an employer.
What counts as gross misconduct?
Very serious actions or behaviours (or those with serious effects), include fraud, violence, gross negligence, or serious insubordination, though your organisation may have specific examples. Gross misconduct could well end in dismissal.
An employer deciding to end your contract is classed as dismissal, and an employer must follow a ‘fair and reasonable’ procedure before this is made official. If you believe you have a case for unfair dismissal, you must seek legal advice.
Appealing a grievance or disciplinary at work
If you think a decision as a result of a disciplinary or grievance should be changed or overturned, you can consider appealing. Your employer should offer you this right to appeal; failure to do so would go against them at an employment tribunal. Your organisation should have an appeal policy or set of guidelines, but if not, employees should follow the ACAS Code.
What is ACAS?
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), is a body that receives funding from the UK Government, and offers advice to employees and employers about workplace rights. Their advice is written plainly, so it’s easy to understand what the rights of employers and employees are. ACAS offers training, a helpline, and a comprehensive online platform for individuals and organisations looking for guidance on employment law matters.
ACAS are essentially an important bridge between employers and employees to promote fair treatment and productive workplace relationships.
Why choose 365 Employment Law?
Here at 365 Employment Law in Worthing, we have worked on both sides of the disciplinary and grievance processes, and therefore have unique and independent insights over and above our specialist employment law expertise that we apply to each case.
We are experienced in all areas of grievance and disciplinary, and can therefore help with everything from drafting documentation, to attending grievance hearings with you, advising on unfair disciplinary action at work, and reviewing your employer’s response.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a workplace grievance?
A workplace grievance is a formal complaint that is raised by an employee in regard to a workplace issue, such as harassment, discrimination, unfair treatment, or any other concern related to their employment.
What should I do if I have a grievance at work?
If there is a grievance at work, you should follow your employer’s grievance procedure. This usually involves submitting a written complaint to HR or a designated authority. Seeking legal advice from an employment law specialist may also be beneficial in certain situations.
What rights do I have during a disciplinary process?
Employees have the right to be informed of the allegations against them, to provide their side of the story, to have a witness or representative present, and to appeal any disciplinary decision made by their employer.
Should I seek legal advice before filing a grievance or during a disciplinary process?
It’s advisable to seek legal advice before filing a grievance or when facing a disciplinary process. Legal guidance can help you understand your rights, navigate the process, and protect your interests.
How long does a grievance or disciplinary process take?
The duration of either of these processes can vary depending on the complexity of the issue. However, seeking legal advice can help expedite or manage the process effectively.
Can I use mediation?
Yes, you can, though if you’re using someone from outside your organisation, you may need to pay. Both parties will need to agree to mediation.
What role can an employment law solicitor play in grievance and disciplinary matters?
An employment law solicitor can provide legal advice, represent your interests, help you draft and submit grievances, attend disciplinary hearings with you, and ensure your rights are protected throughout the entire process.