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Grievance Management – advice for employers

Grievance Management – advice for employers

Date published on: 07/04/2021

The grievance procedure is an official process to address a complaint raised by an employee against their employer in relation to treatment that is believed to be wrong or unfair. Employers should follow a structured process to address these issues as the matter is very sensitive.

Employers should maintain confidentiality around any grievance and follow the Code of Practice that promotes that a grievance procedure, including informal and formal channels for resolution. 

Informal Stage

At the informal stage, an employee is expected to raise their complaint with their line manager and discuss the issue of concern informally. The employee’s manager should consider the complaint carefully, the potential solutions outlined by the employee as well as the best approach for the organisation and issue a response within a reasonable timeframe.  It is important that brief notes are kept of informal meetings as well as reasoning behind any decision or response issued.

The majority of grievances are resolved in this way on a day-to-day basis, without the term grievance even being used.

Formal Stage

Where an employee is dissatisfied with the response received at the informal stage, then they should be allowed raise the issue with their manager formally in writing and have a formal hearing to consider the grievance. The employee should be afforded representation at this hearing should they wish to avail of this.

The employee should be encouraged to articulate their grievance and also propose solutions. The manager should consider the situation carefully and not respond immediately, but arrange a follow up hearing to communicate their response.

Where the employee deems any stage to be inappropriate, or they are dissatisfied with the response received at an earlier stage, then they may raise the issue formally in writing with another manager. An employee is entitled to skip any stage of the process (including the informal stage) and should not be subject to any reprisal or victimisation for raising an issue under the procedures.

The following steps should be applied by a Manager in dealing with the receipt of a formal grievance:

  • The employer should write to the employee to provide reasonable advance notice of a grievance hearing. Best practice recommends that at least 24 hours’ notice be given. The letter should specify that the hearing is a grievance hearing being arranged under the relevant stage of the grievance procedure

  • Confirm the employee’s right to bring a representative to the hearing and request that the employee notifies the relevant manager of who they intend to bring with them, if anyone,

  • Include a copy of the written grievance as received,

  • Confirm the time, date and location of the meeting and also name the person(s) who will conduct the hearing.

In advance of the hearing the person(s) conducting the hearing should meet to consider the nature of the grievance; any policies or procedures to which the grievance relates; the questions that need to be addressed to the employee to fully understand the issue of concern and who will take notes and records of the hearing.

During any grievance hearing these steps should be followed:

  • The employee should be asked to explain their grievance and the impact that this is having on them and their work. It is important that the employee is not interrupted while they speak, except to encourage them to provide more information or to clarify what is being said.

  • The employee should be asked to suggest possible solutions to their grievance. It is important that the manager hearing the grievance remains non-judgemental and does not indicate their own feelings with regard to the issue by remaining impartial.

  • A record of the conversation should be captured in writing as accurately as possible.

  • The hearing should be adjourned so that the grievance is considered as it has been presented.

  • It should be explained to the Employee that the hearing will be resumed within a reasonable timeframe to communicate the Manager’s decision on the matter.

During the adjournment, it is essential to consider the grievance as presented by the employee and make a decision on what actions to take in order to resolve the grievance, if appropriate.

Following a reasonable period of adjournment, that demonstrates that the grievance has been carefully considered, the hearing should be resumed to communicate the response to the grievance.  The employee should be allowed to bring a representative to this hearing, and a record of the hearing must be retained.

The decision in relation to the grievance should be communicated to the employee verbally and confirmed in writing. An explanation of the reasoning behind the decision should be communicated, and the employee should be asked to reply as to whether they are satisfied with the outcome or otherwise. If the employee is satisfied with the response issued, they should be advised that the organisation welcomes their on-going feedback.

If the employee expresses dissatisfaction with the response issued, they should be advised that they may escalate the issue to the next stage of the formal procedure and have the procedure for doing so explained to them. This, of course, is dependent upon all formal stages of the procedure not having been exhausted.

Where the response issued following the final stage of the procedure is not to the satisfaction of the employee, the organisation may decide to advise the employee that they have exhausted the internal appeal procedures in this regard. 


The right to appeal the outcome of a grievance process is entrenched within the principles of natural justice and details relating to the appeal should be provided to the affected employee following the issuing of a decision. Fair and consistent procedures must apply through the mechanism of appeal and the appeal hearing will follow the procedures as set out in the Organisational Policy and Procedure which should demonstrate the principles of the Code of Practice. It is preferable that the Manager hearing the appeal has not been involved in the initial grievance hearing in any way as it may affect the right to natural justice.