When an employee raises a formal grievance, the employer should arrange to hold a meeting within 5 working days ideally.
The employer should allow employees enough time to prepare for the meeting.
The employer can arrange for someone not involved in the grievance to:
take notes at the meeting
act as a witness if necessary
To keep the procedure fair, the employer should:
consider information or evidence from all sides
see if a similar grievance has happened before and aim to follow the same fair procedure
They should also:
arrange for an interpreter if the employee has difficulty speaking English
consider whether reasonable adjustments are needed for a disabled employee or anyone they bring with them
Employers should keep a confidential record of:
evidence they’ve gathered
any decisions or actions taken
should do their best to attend the meeting on the date set
can bring any evidence about the grievance (for example, relevant emails) to show and discuss at the meeting.
4. The right to be accompanied
By law, any employee or worker can bring a relevant person (‘companion’) to a grievance meeting, if it’s about a legal or contractual issue. This is known as ‘the right to be accompanied’.
The person must choose their companion from one of the following:
a trade union representative
an official employed by a trade union
Under discrimination law the employer needs to consider a disabled employee’s request to bring someone else for additional support, such as a carer.
It’s up to the employer to agree if the person wants to bring anyone else. It can depend on the contract – for example, some employment contracts might allow for a spouse or legal representative.
If the employee wants to bring a companion, they should tell their employer who that person is as soon as possible. This is so arrangements can be made in good time.
The companion should also be given enough time to prepare for the meeting (for example, to look at any evidence).
What happens in the meeting
The meeting is the chance for the person who raised the grievance to:
explain the grievance
show any evidence they have
It’s also the chance for the employer to ask questions, so that they know what steps to take.
What the employer should do
In the meeting the employer should ask the person who raised the grievance to:
provide more information about it
discuss how it could be resolved
The employer should also:
do their best to understand the feelings of the person raising the grievance
take notes or appoint someone else to take them
go through the evidence
take care in deciding on any actions (usually the employer will not need to make an immediate decision)
consider ending the meeting and resuming it at a later date, if they need to investigate statements and facts from the meeting
sum up the main points at the end
They should give the person who raised the grievance the chance to:
explain their side
express how they feel – they might need to ‘let off steam’, particularly if the grievance is serious or has lasted a long time
provide details of any witnesses the employer should contact
What the companion should do
With the permission of the person raising the grievance, the companion is allowed to:
set out the case of the person raising the grievance
speak for them
talk with them during the meeting
The companion cannot:
answer questions put to the person raising the grievance
prevent anyone else at the meeting from explaining their side of things
Investigating the grievance
The employer might need to take some time to investigate so they can make a fair decision.
If necessary they can set up another grievance meeting once they have found out more information.
At the end of the meeting
The employer should:
give the employee copies of the meeting record and notes taken
tell the employee when they will get a decision.
The amount of time needed for a decision should be in line with your workplace grievance policy, if there is one.
If there are delays, for example if further investigation is needed, the employer should explain how long the delays will be and why.
The employer can withhold some information in certain circumstances (for example, to protect a witness).
Under data protection law (GDPR), the employer should get consent from the person who provided information before sharing it.
This might mean the employer needs to make some information anonymous before sharing it.
You can find out more about data protection on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website.