Adrian Scotland, who heads up a team of lawyers at Judge Sykes Frixou Ltd, offers his advice on how to write a grievance letter.
There is no generally-prescribed form for a grievance. Some companies have their in-house forms, which they may ask you to use. The Company’s grievance procedure should also set out who you should address your grievance to.
If there is no prescribed form for your employer, or if you are unsure, it is our experience that it is usually sufficient to set your concerns out in a letter or email. Below is a basic template, which you may find helpful in structuring your grievance.
There are many different strategies out there, but in most instances we recommend that a grievance sets out the facts in detail and references the law more superficially. Most employees are not lawyers and not expected to present a legal argument. The focus should be to record an accurate and reliable account of the matters giving rise to your complaints. Detailed points of law can be addressed subsequently if and when necessary and preferably with the assistance of legal counsel.
Finally it is important to be truthful in a grievance. Aside from moral considerations, if you make false allegations, you could easily find yourself on the receiving end of a disciplinary process.
Please accept this [letter/email] as my formal grievance in relation to the matters set out in detail below. I believe that I have been subjected to unreasonable and unlawful treatment and that I have been [discriminated against/harassed] because of my [gender/maternity].
1. [Set out the factual background to your complaint in chronological order bearing in mind the following tips:-
- Number paragraphs for future ease of reference.
- Assume your audience have very little knowledge or understanding of your workplace. So the first time you reference an individual, make sure you use their full name and confirm their job title.
- Refer to dates throughout so the reader can track the timeline easily and at a glance. Timelines are very important in legal disputes and the more specific you can be the more credibility you will have.
- Where possible quote the specific phrases or words used in significant meetings or discussions.
- Cross reference any supporting evidence and identify any witnesses by name.
- Make sure your tone is professional and polite and avoid being aggressive. People are more likely to want to assist if they sympathise with your position. We empathise more easily with victims than aggressors.]
2. [Set out the impact these experiences have had on you emotionally, in terms of your health, your performance/confidence at work, etc]
3. [Set out your objectives, but you may want to keep your powder dry initially and keep things vague. Certainly you would not want to table a settlement figure in your grievance as it would convey the wrong message and you would almost certainly be showing your hand too soon. I would usually put the onus on the Company to propose solutions in the first instance.]
I am happy to clarify or elaborate on the above if anything is unclear.
Please confirm the next steps in this process and provide me with a copy of the Company’s grievance procedure at your earliest convenience.
[Yours sincerely, etc]
Adrian Scotland is a solicitor specialising in employment law. Adrian heads up a team of lawyers, at Judge Sykes Frixou Ltd, who are heavily involved in workplace discrimination and related disputes.
Please note that this article and the other legal resources published on our site from time to time can only ever amount to brief and generalised commentary on the issues concerned. They do not constitute legal advice and neither we, nor Judge Sykes Frixou Limited are able to accept liability for any losses arising from reliance on them. If you are affected by sexual discrimination or other forms of workplace mistreatment, you should approach a specialist solicitor directly for advice. It is important to do so quickly as statutory time limits will likely apply.