We are often called by people who ask us to draft a letter on their behalf for use at a grievance hearing. Sometimes we do. In most cases the letter is better coming from the employee themselves but they are unsure what to put- even though most people are very clear what their grievance is about.
ACAS encourage an informal approach to grievances and in most cases it will be appropriate to make a verbal approach first. If the response is not satisfactory the grievance should be put in writing (many employers have a procedure which makes this clear). In some cases though it will be clear from the start that a grievance needs to be in writing.
The letter should set out briefly 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 best way of doing this is to use short numbered paragraphs. The letter should not be too long or make too many different points.
The purpose is to make clear to someone who knows nothing about your situation exactly what the complaint is about. The letter does not need to spell out all the arguments in your favour or give all the evidence. Detailed arguments are for the grievance hearing. It is for the employer to investigate the grievance, provide and deal with evidence. Your job is to provide enough information to enable them to do that.
A grievance letter will seldom need to be more than two pages long. We have seen grievance letters many pages long listing well over 100 complaints. This is hopeless.
Firstly if an employee has over 100 genuine complaints they should have filed a grievance long before.
Secondly- as with so much of English law the complex and technical rules related to employment have the word ‘reasonable’ buried in them at strategic intervals. This gives decision makers (ultimately employment tribunals and higher courts) a great deal of discretion.
It is never going to be viewed as reasonable to send an employer dozens of complaints out of the blue with grievances dating back months or even years- usually with a demand that each one be thoroughly investigated.
That is not to say that events from the past cannot be raised- eg ‘I am the only one who has not 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 bear in mind that even if you eventually win a case at an employment tribunal- the award you get may be reduced if you have not used the grievance procedure properly.