Introduction to this document

Informal resolution of grievance letter

Where an employee raises issues or concerns in writing, for example in an e-mail, should you always treat it as a grievance or clarify the position first? It’s better to clarify the matter and you can then send our letter where the employee confirms they have declined the grievance procedure and have requested informal resolution of their written complaint.

Previous position

Until the statutory grievance procedure (SGP) was repealed in April 2009, case law had dictated that almost every written complaint from an employee had to be treated as a grievance under the SGP, even where the employee had indicated they didn’t want to raise a formal grievance or they hadn’t even used the word “grievance”. However, now that the SGP has gone, common sense can prevail and you can deal with the matter in a practical way.

Informal resolution

The A cas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures recognises that many potential grievance issues can be resolved informally. Whilst it still requires formal grievances to be raised in writing, it’s often the case that an employee will fire off an e-mail to their line manager sounding off about a work-related issue but without mentioning whether or not they’re actually raising a grievance. In this case, it’s quite legitimate to ask the employee to expressly confirm their position, i.e. are they raising a formal grievance or are they looking for informal resolution via their line manager? In the majority of cases, the answer will be the latter and indeed a reassuring chat with their line manager is often all that is required to resolve many issues.

Where an employee has declined the grievance procedure and requested informal resolution of their complaint, use our letter to write to the employee confirming this. It sets out that this is the case and goes on to provide that the employee’s line manager will therefore meet with them on an informal footing within the next few days to discuss their complaint and hopefully resolve it to their satisfaction.

Formal procedure

If the complaint cannot be resolved informally by the line manager, the onus would then be on the employee to escalate it under the formal grievance procedure. The fact the employee confirms that they want the issue to be dealt with informally at first instance does not prevent them from raising it formally at a later date if they’re not happy with the outcome of the informal approach. This is made clear in the A cas Code of Practice.