How To Tackle Problems At Work Like An Employment Lawyer

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 22nd January 2024

Work is crucial for various reasons, providing purpose, reliable income, and contributing to our self-esteem. Unfortunately, work-related problems like job dissatisfaction, workplace injuries, stress, discrimination, redundancy, and bullying can harm our physical and mental health.


When these kinds of problems come up, knowing how best to deal with them can make a tough situation easier to manage. In this article, Lawhive’s employment law solicitors break down how employees can go about tackling problems at work like a legal pro, to make sure their rights are upheld and they get the best outcome for their situation. 

How to deal with problems at work 

Surprisingly, the first piece of advice we have for employees who are experiencing problems in the workplace is not to lawyer up straightaway. While, yes, some cases will require legal advice, support, and intervention, often problems can be addressed informally. Therefore, our first tip for handling problems at work is…

Read your employee handbook and relevant policies 

Every company should have clear policies and procedures covering important areas like health and safety, data protection, grievance handling, absences, disciplinary procedures, discrimination, and employee conduct.

Before discussing a problem with your employer, check their policies as they may provide the information you need to solve your problem. Understanding your workplace's stance on certain matters can also guide you in raising the issue and identifying the right person to talk to.

Talk to your employer

Handling workplace issues informally is usually the first step. Employers prefer open communication to resolve problems quickly and maintain positive relationships.

Before talking to your boss, be clear on what actions you want and gather relevant info, like dates and communications. During the discussion, clearly express your concerns, suggest solutions, and show any evidence you have. Keep detailed notes, and if possible, have someone with you.

Set a follow-up date and action completion during the meeting. If the issue persists, consider more formal actions like raising a grievance. For more tips on this, check out our article on how to win a grievance hearing as an employee.

Write a letter 

If having a face-to-face conversation about an issue is challenging or ineffective, consider expressing your concerns in an email or letter to your boss or HR. Clearly explain the problem, the actions you've taken, and your desired outcome. 

Written communication can remove emotional elements, making the issue clearer. Be sure to keep copies of any communications for potential evidence in case of escalation.

Raise a grievance 

If an issue remains unresolved after being raised informally or is considered too serious for an informal resolution, employees have the right to raise a formal grievance. Every organisation should have a set grievance procedure, and the Acas Code of Practice outlines the minimum standards employers should follow in handling grievances.

If you decide to raise a grievance with your employer, follow the procedure set out in the relevant policy. Generally, the first step involves raising the matter in writing, outlining the nature of the grievance, and sharing it promptly with a manager.

Your employer should then: 

  • Arrange for a formal meeting as soon as possible; 

  • Allow you to explain your grievance and propose a resolution; 

  • Decide on appropriate action after the meeting and communicate this to you in writing; 

  • Inform you of the right to appeal if not satisfied with the outcome. 

You have the right to bring a companion to a grievance meeting, whether it's a colleague, trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union.

Your chosen companion can actively participate by addressing the hearing, presenting and summarising your case, responding to expressed views, and conferring with you. However, they cannot answer questions on your behalf or address the hearing against your wishes.

To exercise this right, you simply need to make a reasonable request to be accompanied. This request doesn't necessarily have to be in writing or follow a specific timeline, but providing ample notice is advisable.

Consider mediation 

Mediation is a collaborative process where an impartial third party helps you and your employer (or another employee) engage in constructive conversations to find solutions to workplace problems.

It often comes into play when informal discussions haven't resolved the issue. Mediation is not suitable for all problems, especially those requiring formal investigation, such as discrimination or harassment.

The suggestion for mediation can come from either you or your employer, but it is not mandatory, and neither party can be compelled to participate. Mediators can be internal or external to the organisation, and if there are any costs involved, they are typically covered by the employer.

Participating in the mediation process is completely confidential. Importantly, engaging in mediation does not forfeit your right to later raise a formal grievance or complaint. The process is 'without prejudice,' meaning that anything discussed or presented during mediation cannot be used in subsequent proceedings, like employment tribunals.

Considering the suitability of the issue, exploring mediation as a way to address workplace problems can be a valuable step before considering more litigious routes.

Make an employment tribunal claim 

If, despite your efforts, the problem persists, the last resort is making an employment tribunal claim. However, employment tribunals can only make decisions on specific work-related issues, such as pay rights, discrimination, and breach of contract.

It's important to note that employment tribunals can only handle claims from employees in Great Britain against an employer-based or operating in Great Britain. Their powers primarily revolve around compensation, and it's uncommon to regain your job even if the tribunal rules in your favour.

While it's not mandatory to have raised a formal grievance or gone through mediation before making a tribunal claim, the tribunal will consider this during the process, especially when determining compensation. Hence, exploring alternative options before resorting to a tribunal is advisable.

After participating in early conciliation, you'll receive a certificate necessary for your employment tribunal claim form.

Before proceeding with a tribunal claim, it's crucial to assess the strength of your case. Seeking expert advice, such as from an employment solicitor, can help you understand the viability of pursuing your claim, estimate appropriate compensation, and negotiate for the best settlement.

This step is significant, considering the potential costs in terms of money, time, energy, and stress involved in pursuing a tribunal claim.

10 tips for tackling problems at work like an employment lawyer 

  1. Be direct but polite when addressing the problem. 

  2. Don’t let a problem fester, tackle it quickly and try to avoid involving others unnecessarily; 

  3. Try to maintain a respectful and non-defensive atmosphere during discussions; 

  4. Don’t make direct accusations; 

  5. Build a support network and draw on them when needed; 

  6. Keep a log of ongoing problems, including dates, times, what happened, and details of witnesses; 

  7. Know your rights as an employee and take time to read your employee handbook and related policies; 

  8. Communicate openly with your manager or HR department, and be open to resolving the problem quickly; 

  9. Be clear on what you want from raising the problem. This could include a certain action by your employer or a compensation amount. 

  10. Make sure any communications are put in writing. 

At Lawhive, we've helped a substantial number of employees resolve problems at work through many different actions, ranging from raising a formal grievance to representing them at a tribunal.

While it’s understandable you may want to get your pound of flesh when it comes to raising a problem at work, especially if you’ve been profoundly impacted by it, sometimes the best outcome isn’t taking the matter to a tribunal but engaging in productive conversations with your employer to negotiate a settlement. 

If you’re facing an issue at work that you feel you need help tackling, hopefully, these tips go some way to supporting you to take positive action. However, if you find the issue is too big or too serious to handle on your own, don’t delay in seeking advice. At Lawhive, we can help you access the very best, most affordable, employment solicitors to support you with your case. 

To get started, contact our legal assessment team for a free case assessment. 

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