Reasons to file a grievance at work

Reasons to file a grievance at work

There are a substantial number of reasons to file (or lodge) a grievance, so many in fact that it would be a challenge to list them all. Rather than focusing on whether something is or is not a grievance, it is important that employers recognise the need to resolve issues fairly. This blog will explore what a grievance is, the various reasons why an employee may lodge a grievance and, why a grievance process is important.

Is there a definition of a grievance?

According to ACAS, grievances are ‘concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers.’

It is common for employers to believe that grievances only apply to complaints but, as is clear from the definition above, this is not so, as ‘problems’ and ‘concerns’ are covered too.  

Employers should have policies and procedures in place which explain how a grievance will be handled, such as by providing an overview of the stages involved. Such documents may well provide examples of situations when a grievance may be lodged, but it is important to remember the broad definition above.

Reasons to file a grievance

As referred to above, it would be difficult to list every possible situation in which a grievance could be lodged. Although a grievance is lodged by an employee, and relates to that individual, it may well be the case that others are affected by the issues raised too. The points below are intended to provide an overview and may well overlap.


1. Terms and conditions


It is common for employees to feel that they are undertaking work of a type which was not expected previously. Perhaps this situation has occurred due to changes being made and the employee believes that the tasks in question should not be part of their role. Alternatively, there may be uncertainty about whether such activities form part of the role or not, with the employee receiving conflicting information e.g. from different managers. This uncertainty creates a problem or concern for the employee due to not knowing what is required by the employer.

There are many other potential reasons to file a grievance relating to terms and conditions and the above is simply one example.


2. Unrealistic workload/expectations


This situation typically relates to the amount of work that is required. Perhaps, there is an increase in workload due to staff absences or restructuring. It could be that the employee has been placed on a performance improvement plan for falling short of what is required, and that the employee believes that the action taken was unfair. This may be because the expectations are unrealistic, the timeframes are not achievable or because there has not been enough support from the organisation to get things back on track. For more information on performance improvement plans view our blog Employee rights on a performance improvement plan


3. Bullying


Unfortunately, bullying at work is far from uncommon. Examples are being undermined or excluded by colleagues, being subjected to constant hostility, criticism, or there may be a difference in terms of expectations.  For example, an employee may be given a greater workload than colleagues or may be treated more harshly than others. For more information on How to report bullying at work view our blog.


4. Discrimination


Such a situation is where an employee is subjected to less favourable treatment because of a protected characteristic such as sex, disability, race etc.  This unfavourable treatment could take many forms. Common examples are being denied opportunities such as training, not being considered for promotion etc.


5. Harassment


Just as with bullying, the term harassment is often used to describe unacceptable behaviour. However, harassment actually relates to particular conduct. An employee can bring a claim for harassment at an Employment Tribunal if there has been unwanted conduct which violates the employee’s dignity. The conduct in question is either of a sexual nature or the unwanted conduct relates to a protected characteristic. For more details on harassment view our blog How to deal with conflict at the workplace.


6. Health and safety


Health and safety is likely to cover a broad range of topics from office equipment to machinery and appropriate clothing. Whatever the working environment, it is important that employees are able to raise any concerns.  

It may well be the case that an employer has different policies in place relating to specific issues such as health and safety, whistleblowing or harassment. In such a situation, it would be sensible to review the particular policy in case there are any differences between that procedure and the grievance process.  


7. Reasonable adjustments


Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees to reduce a substantial disadvantage which disabled employees would have when compared with non-disabled colleagues. An example of a reasonable adjustment would be permitting an employee to work flexibly because there is a need to take breaks due to the effects of the disability. What is reasonable will depend on the individual circumstances.

It may be that a grievance is raised because of the way in which the issue of reasonable adjustments is handled, such as potential reasonable adjustments not being considered or the length of time it has taken to implement them.


8. Failure to follow procedures


It is common for employers to have various policies in place which cover a wide range of circumstances. These policies are likely to refer to what is required of the employee and what will be done by the employer. For all sorts of reasons, those policies may not be adhered to. This situation may cause employees to believe that action taken by the employer is inconsistent and unfair.


Why are grievances important?


Grievances mean that the employer is informed of the situation, and therefore steps can be taken to establish what happened and decide on appropriate next steps.

Grievances should be taken seriously. If they are not, an employee may (depending on the circumstances) opt to bring an Employment Tribunal claim alleging, for example, harassment or discrimination. Such a situation may well have been avoided if appropriate steps had been taken at an earlier stage such as the grievance process.

Plotkin & Chandler works exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law.

If you are an employee and would like advice on lodging a grievance, or you believe that you have been treated unfairly, we can help. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you would like to discuss bringing a harassment claim, or you believe that you have been dismissed unfairly please get in touch.

If you are an employer, we have expertise in how to manage the grievance process and a range of other topics. Whether you would like HR consultancy where we would undertake tasks on behalf of your organisation, or you would like HR training to better understand a particular topic, we can support you. In addition to our HR services, we also have expertise in defending an Employment Tribunal claim such as discrimination and harassment.

For a free consultation, to discuss your needs and the ways in which we can help, call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com







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