Grievance hearing guidance for members

Optometrist at work

Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that employees raise with their employers. Ideally issues can be resolved informally with the employer without the need for a formal process but if a formal grievance is required we set out some useful information for employees below.

1. What are grievance procedures?

All businesses should have a written grievance procedure in place. This must contain the following information:

  • How to make a complaint
  • Who the employee should address the grievance to
  • How to contact this person
  • The grievance hearing procedure
  • How long the procedure usually takes

The minimum standards that should be followed in a grievance process are set out at on the Acas website: Grievance: Keys to handling grievances in the workplace

2. What is a grievance hearing?

A grievance hearing is a meeting between employee and employer that aims to address and resolve any concerns raised by an employee in the workplace. 

An employee will usually be required to raise any formal grievance in writing setting out in detail the nature of their complaint. The employment team can review your grievance with you and provide advice on the content if you send it to us before submitting it to the employer. 
Once a formal grievance has been raised, the employee should be invited to attend a grievance meeting without unreasonable delay, where all concerns will be discussed more formally, and the employee will be given the opportunity to expand on their grievance letter and provide more detail and context to their complaints. 

The meeting should be adjourned if further investigation is required. 


3. What is the right to be accompanied?

Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative at a grievance meeting.

Employees should make a reasonable request to be accompanied and allow the employer enough time to make arrangements for the companion’s attendance (for example, setting up a Microsoft Teams/Zoom meeting to allow a trade union companion to attend remotely if appropriate)

If the chosen companion is unavailable on the meeting date proposed by the employer then the employer must postpone the hearing to a time proposed by the worker provided that the alternative time is both reasonable and not more than five working days after the date originally proposed.

The companion should be allowed to address the hearing to put and sum up the worker’s case, respond on behalf of the worker to any views expressed at the meeting and confer with the worker during the hearing. The companion does not, however, have the right to answer questions on the worker’s behalf.

4. How do I arrange for a companion from an external trade union to accompany me and what will they do?

If you would like to be accompanied to the grievance hearing by a trade union representative, which we can arrange due to our relationship with Prospect, please contact the AOP as soon as possible, email employment team stating the proposed meeting date in the subject header of the email.

We will arrange for the details of your case to be sent to an external trade union companion. Our legal team can advise you on the legal issues related to your grievance and will help you in formulating your case and conveying it to the companion.

The role of the companion is to support you at the meeting, but they cannot provide any legal advice. In advance of the meeting the companion will discuss with you any points they would like to raise in the hearing with your consent and how the case may be presented to the employer.

During the meeting, the companion cannot answer questions directed at you but will help to ensure the process is fair and raise any concerns if there are any.

They will provide a report to the AOP following the meeting.

Grievance hearing

The grievance hearing process

The grievance hearing must be fair and well-conducted. There are some formal steps that should be followed for a successful grievance hearing. These are:

  1. Ensure that any electronic devices are turned off to avoid unnecessary interruptions, unless using them for the purpose of speaking to your representative virtually.
  2. Your employer will outline the stages of the procedure and state that you are now at the formal grievance hearing stage. Then, outline the procedure for the hearing. They will explore the issue and invite you to state your complaint and what resolution you seek. You will be given the opportunity to sum up your case.
  3. If you have any questions or you do not understand a question, please let the chair/panel know.
  4. After the case has been explained and the questioning has been completed, your employer should allow those present to clarify that they have understood the case fully.
  5. Your employer will record a summary of the discussion and prepare a report that summarises the nature of the grievance, the investigation, and the final decision – including reasons on how this was reached.
  6. You will be notified of the decision in writing. The decision should set out to whom any appeal should be sent and the deadline for this.
    You should be provided with copies of the employer’s meeting records, such as any formal minutes. When you receive the minutes read through them carefully and convey any necessary amendments to the employer in writing without delay (and keep a copy of that correspondence for your records).

5. What information should I send to the AOP to seek assistance with a grievance hearing?

  1. Contract of employment
  2. Grievance procedure and appeals policy
  3. A copy of your grievance/complaint letter (or any draft thereof)
  4. Any meeting invite letters
  5. Any previous meeting notes
  6. Any relevant correspondence relating to your grievance
  7. The full names of the individuals involved in your grievance (please note, this remains strictly confidential)
  8. The date of any meeting that has been proposed.
  9. The dates of any conduct that you complain of (please note there are strict tribunal deadlines for taking action in this regard and the raising of a grievance does not extend those deadlines)  

6. What is the grievance appeal process?

After the grievance hearing, you will have the right to appeal the decision if you are unhappy with the outcome. You should do so in writing to the person identified by your employer and without reasonable delay (and within any deadlines set). You should also comply with any grievance/appeal procedure in terms of the format of the appeal.

An appeal meeting should re-examine the decision. You should focus on the reason behind the appeal and any new evidence that may have emerged.

The AOP can assist you with your appeal letter. If you require a companion we will make arrangements for you for the subsequent meeting. Where possible we will try to instruct the same companion but this cannot be guaranteed.

After the appeal meeting, you will receive a written copy of your employer’s decision which will state that it is the final outcome. You should also be given a copy of the employer’s meeting notes. As before, if you have any amendments to make to the minutes you should convey them to your employer in writing, retaining a copy.

7. What if I am still not happy?

Contact the employment team who can advise you on any options you may have in terms of pursuing the matter externally. There are generally deadlines of three months less one day from the act you are complaining of to take action in tribunal matters so you should act quickly.

See Grievance: Keys to handling grievances in the workplace for more information.