Employment law

Has a colleague raised a grievance against you?

It's never pleasant when colleagues fall out or just don't get on due to a personality clash. However, the real problems can begin when someone raises a grievance against you at work. That's why we've explained your rights and what action you need to take when that happens, in this brief guide.

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My colleague has raised a grievance against me. What should I do?

It's a fact of life that most of us will have issues with work colleagues or line managers at some point in our careers. These issues can range from petty arguments that are quickly forgotten to serious, on-going disputes or personality clashes that can make your workplace a pretty stressful and unpleasant place to be.

You may be vaguely aware of what action to take if you want to complain to management or HR about the behaviour of someone you work with. Where many people find themselves out of their depth and liable to panic is when a colleague raises a grievance against them. However, unless you've been very seriously at fault, there's no need to panic.

It's quite possible that your colleague has raised a formal grievance against you over something relatively minor. Once you've explained your side of the story, it may turn out to be just an unfortunate misunderstanding, or a minor matter that can be resolved with an apology. On the other hand, it could turn out to be the start of a serious and lengthy grievance process.

In either case, it's important for you – and your employer – to remember that your employer has a duty to listen impartially to both parties when a formal grievance arises. Your word and your opinions count for just as much as the other party, even if they're senior to you.

It's equally important that your employer follows a fair process, which is in line with the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedure. If this is followed, and you in turn follow our practical guidance for grievance procedures, the matter may ultimately be resolved without affecting your role in the long term.

How should I handle a colleague's grievance?

  • Your employer should inform you if a grievance has been raised against you and you should be given full details of the complaint or a copy of the grievance letter. However, you may only be given details of the parts that relate directly to you if there are other parts to the grievance. If this is not provided, be sure to ask for a copy as soon as possible.
  • You should collect all the relevant evidence you can, such as emails, memos, letters, notes of telephone conversations, notes of interviews, appraisal forms etc. It also helps to produce a chronology of events, and to try to remember if any other colleagues may have witnessed the event or events that led to the grievance.
  • Use this evidence to put together a written defence against the allegations made and submit this to the relevant person prior to your investigation meeting.
  • Your employer may try to involve you in trying to seek to resolve the matter informally or through mediation in the first instance where possible. You should agree to this if you feel able to.
  • If the grievance moves to the formal stage of the procedure, you should be invited to an investigation meeting. You don't have a legal right to be accompanied to this meeting, but you should ask your employer if you can be allowed to bring someone along for moral support and to help you take notes of what's said during the meeting.
  • Your employer should give you the opportunity to respond to the complaint made against you in the investigation meeting, and you should put forward your version of events by setting out your defence in full.
  • Your employer should arrange for minutes of the meeting to be prepared, which you must be given the opportunity to check and sign. If you don't think that these minutes are accurate, you can ask for them to be changed, or decline to sign them.
  • Your employer should keep you informed of the timescales for resolving the grievance.
  • You're entitled to be informed of the outcome of the grievance, where appropriate and where it relates directly to you, and you should request this information if it's not given to you voluntarily.
  • Bear in my mind that if the grievance is not upheld, the complainant has the right to appeal against the decision, so it may not be the end of the matter until any appeal has been concluded.
  • If the verdict of the investigation is that your colleague has raised a false grievance against you, or made malicious allegations, you may have grounds to raise a separate grievance against them.
  • In addition to this, if you feel aggrieved by the way your employer has treated you during the process, you may wish to raise a grievance against them. In either case, you should always seek legal advice before drafting your grievance letter.

Our experienced employment solicitors are happy to discuss any aspects of grievance procedures relating to your employment. Call us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us online and we'll call you.

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