Law guide: Employment

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Introduction to grievances

Introduction to grievances

Informal resolution

In organisations where managers have an open policy for communication and consultation, problems and concerns are often raised and settled as a matter of course.

Employees should aim to settle most grievances informally with their line manager. Many problems can be raised and settled during the course of everyday working relationships. This also allows for problems to be settled quickly.

In some cases outside help such as an independent mediator can help resolve problems especially those involving working relationships.

What is a grievance?

Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers.

Anyone working in a business may, at some time, have problems or concerns about their work, working conditions or relationships with colleagues that they wish to talk about with management. They want the grievance to be addressed, and if possible, resolved. It is also clearly in management's interests to resolve problems before they can develop into major difficulties for all concerned. Issues that may cause grievances include:

  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Health and safety
  • Work relations
  • Bullying and harassment
  • New working practices
  • Working environment
  • Organisational change
  • Discrimination

Grievances may occur at all levels of seniority within a business.

Why have a procedure?

Fairness and transparency are promoted by developing and using rules and procedures for handling grievance situations. These should be set down in writing, be specific and clear.

Employees and, where appropriate, their representatives should be involved in the development of rules and procedures, so that they can be confident that the procedure will operate in a way that they accept is fair and which they understand.

A written procedure can help clarify the process and help to ensure that employees are aware of their rights such as to be accompanied at grievance meetings.


Management and employee representatives who may be involved in grievance matters should be trained for the task. They should be familiar with the provisions of the grievance procedure, and know how to conduct or represent at grievance hearings. Consideration might be given to training managers and employee representatives jointly.

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