Drafting A Grievance Letter

February 12, 2012 · Posted in Business 

We are commonly called by folks who ask us to draft a letter on their behalf for use at an unfair dismissal tribunal. Infrequently we do. Usually the letter is better coming from the worker themselves but they're uncertain what to put- although the majority of people are terribly clear what their grievance is about.

ACAS inspire an ad-hoc approach to grievances and in most cases it'll be acceptable to make a verbal approach first. If the response is not acceptable the grievance should be put in writing (many bosses have a procedure which states this). In some cases though it is going to be clear from the start that a grievance should be in writing.

The letter should set out momentarily what your grievance is with information such as names of any individuals the grievance is against and any witnesses, places, times and any supporting information mentioned. The right way of doing this is to utilise short numbered paragraphs. The letter shouldn't be too long or make too many different points.

The purpose is to make clear to someone who knows nothing about your situation precisely what the complaint is about. The letter does not have to spell out all of the disagreements in your favor or give all the evidence. Detailed bitching is for the grievance hearing. It is for the employer to investigate the grievance, provide and cope with evidence. Your job is to provide enough information to assist them to do that.

A grievance letter will seldom must be more than 2 pages long. We have seen grievance letters many pages long listing well over 100 complaints. This is hopeless as:

– Firstly if an employee has over 100 real complaints they should have filed a grievance long before.

– Secondly- as with so much of English law the complex and technical rules related to work have the word ‘reasonable’ buried in them at strategic intervals. This gives decision makers a good deal of tact.

It isn't going to be regarded as reasonable to send an employer lots of complaints out of the blue with grievances dating back months or even years- usually with a demand that each one be completely investigated.That is not to say that events from the past cannot be raised- for instance ‘I’m the only one who hasn't had a pay rise in the last three years’.

So the advice is- don’t delay- make your complaint clear, keep it relevant and relatively brief. Also remember that even if you ultimately win a case at an employment tribunal- the award you get could be reduced if you've not utilised the grievance procedure properly.

Helen is an associate with North West Employment Law who specializes in unfair dismissal claim tribunals.


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