How to Win a Grievance Hearing as an Employee

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 20th November 2023

Grievance hearings can be daunting, especially if you're an employee facing one for the first time. However, understanding what to expect and how to prepare can significantly increase your chances of success. 


In this article, we'll break down the process and provide you with practical tips on how to win a grievance hearing. 

What is a grievance hearing?

A grievance hearing, sometimes known as a grievance meeting, is a formal meeting between you and your employer to discuss a complaint or concern you have raised regarding your employment. Grievance hearings are typically initiated when an employee feels wronged, mistreated, or believes that their rights have been violated in the workplace.

Before a grievance hearing takes place, you should attempt to resolve your grievance on an informal basis with your employer. If this is not successful, you may wish to raise a formal grievance by sending a formal and professional letter detailing your complaint. 

Following your written complaint, your employer should respond in writing, inviting you to a meeting to discuss your grievance. This is what’s generally known as a grievance meeting or hearing. 

Grievance hearings are normally related to workplace issues, discrimination, harassment, unfair treatment, or any other matter that affects your work environment.

Who attends a grievance hearing?

Normally, the attendees at a grievance hearing include you (the employee), your employer or a representative from your employer's HR department, and an investigating officer. The investigating officer is a neutral party responsible for assessing the grievance impartially.

You should receive confirmation from your employer that you can take a companion into the meeting with you. This could be a colleague or a union representative. This is highly recommended. 

During the meeting, your companion can speak to you and on your behalf if you wish for them to, as well as take notes for you. 

However, they are not able to answer any questions that are directed specifically at you as the person who is raising the grievance. 

Grievance hearing procedure

A grievance hearing provides you with several essential opportunities to address and resolve workplace issues or concerns. The grievance procedure generally follows these steps:

Step 1: Submission of the grievance

You start the process by formally raising your grievance with your employer, usually in writing. This could be done through an email or letter.

Step 2: Investigation

Your employer will appoint an investigating officer to look into your grievance. The investigating officer may interview you, your colleagues, and review relevant documents.

Step 3: The grievance hearing

A formal meeting is scheduled where you will present your case, and the investigating officer will question you and any witnesses.

Presenting your case

The grievance hearing allows you to formally present your side of the story, explain your concerns, and describe the issues you've experienced in the workplace. This is an opportunity to make your employer aware of the problems you've encountered.

Providing evidence

During the hearing, you can submit any evidence you may have to support your grievance. This evidence could include documents, emails, witness statements, or any other relevant materials that help to substantiate your claims.

Expressing your feelings and concerns

You can openly discuss how the situation has affected you emotionally, mentally, or professionally. This can be an opportunity to express your feelings and discuss the impact of the issue on your well-being and job performance.

Answering questions

The investigating officer or panel may ask you questions to clarify the details of your grievance. You have the opportunity to provide answers and clarify any points as needed.

Engaging in constructive conversations

The grievance hearing is a forum for open and constructive dialogue between you and your employer or HR representatives. It allows for a structured and impartial discussion of the issues at hand.

Requesting remedies

Depending on the nature of your grievance, the hearing provides an opportunity to request specific remedies or resolutions. This could include changes in working conditions, disciplinary actions against individuals involved, or other measures aimed at addressing the problem.

Seeking resolution

The ultimate goal of a grievance hearing is to seek a resolution to the issues raised. It provides a formal process for addressing grievances and finding a fair and satisfactory solution that benefits both you and your employer.

The grievance hearing is designed to be fair and impartial. It ensures that both parties—the employee raising the grievance and the employer—have an equal opportunity to present their case and have their concerns heard.

Step 4: Decision

Following the hearing, the investigating officer or panel will make a decision based on the information presented. This decision will be communicated to you in writing, outlining any actions to be taken or recommendations for resolving the grievance.

Who is the investigating officer?

The investigating officer plays an important role in the grievance process. They are responsible for conducting an impartial investigation into your complaint. 

The investigating officer in a grievance hearing is typically a neutral and impartial individual appointed by the employer or the HR department. This person should have no direct involvement in the issues raised in your grievance and should be capable of objectively assessing the situation. 

Depending on your organisation and its specific policies, the investigating officer could be:

  • HR Professional

  • Internal Manager from a different department or a higher level of management

  • External Investigator

  • Mediator or Arbitrator

  • Union Representative

  • Legal Advisor

In certain cases, an employment law solicitor or legal advisor may be involved in the process, either as the investigating officer or as an advisor to ensure that the investigation is conducted in compliance with employment laws.

What are the statutory timeframes for the grievance process?

In the UK, there are no fixed statutory timeframes for the grievance process. However, your employer should aim to resolve your grievance within a reasonable period. If the process drags on indefinitely, it may be considered unfair.

How to prepare for the grievance hearing

Preparation is key to increasing your chances of success in a grievance hearing. You should:

1. Know your company's policies

Familiarise yourself with your company's grievance procedures and policies. Your employee handbook or HR department should provide you with this information. Understanding the rules and processes will help you navigate the hearing more effectively.

2. Get written confirmation

Request written confirmation of the grievance meeting details, including the date, time, and location. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and will serve as evidence if there are any disputes later.

3. Submit a grievance letter

Before the hearing, it's a good idea to submit a grievance letter outlining the details of your complaint. This document should be well-structured and provide a clear overview of the issues you want to address. It can serve as a reference point during the meeting.

What to say & do at your grievance hearing

Grievance hearings can make you feel anxious, so it is important to be as prepared as possible to maximise your chances of success. 

Be prepared

Arrive at the hearing well-prepared. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your employment rights. You should read through and have a clear understanding of your grievance and the points you want to make. Preparing notes or a rough script on what you want to cover at the meeting can really help you to be clear and direct. 

Collect and send ahead any evidence you have for your case such as supporting statements and documents. This will help you present your grievance confidently. 

Take notes

During the hearing, take notes on what is said, the questions asked, and any decisions made. Be as detailed as possible, even if others are taking notes too. These notes can be valuable if you need to refer back to the meeting's details later.

Stay calm

It's essential to remain calm and composed throughout the hearing. Although you could be understandably upset or angry, emotional outbursts can hinder your case and affect your credibility.

Remaining as calm as possible will help you to answer questions or present information factually, logically and clearly. 

Answer honestly

Always answer questions truthfully and honestly. It's crucial to maintain your integrity during the process and not create any inconsistencies in your case. Should your case need to be taken to an employment tribunal, any inconsistencies would be cross-examined and questions around your credibility may be raised.  

Take a companion

You should have the right to bring a colleague or a trade union representative with you to the hearing. Not only are they there to offer support and act as a witness to the proceedings, they can also make you feel more at ease and confident in knowing that you have someone on your side. 

Mistakes to avoid at the grievance hearing

Just as important as knowing what to do, it's crucial to understand what to avoid during the grievance hearing:

Don't enter settlement negotiations

A grievance hearing is not the right platform to discuss settlement agreements or compensation. The primary purpose of a grievance hearing is to address and resolve the specific issue or concern that led to the grievance.

Introducing settlement negotiations can divert the focus away from the core problem and make it more challenging to reach a fair and direct resolution. Focus on addressing your concerns and the facts related to your grievance.

Rushing into settlement discussions can also lead to accepting a resolution that does not adequately address the harm or concerns you've raised. 

In some cases, settling a grievance prematurely could have legal implications and may affect your ability to pursue further legal action if the issue remains unresolved.

Don't lose your head

Maintaining professionalism and composure is essential. Although you may be upset and get tearful during the hearing, anger and confrontation should be avoided at all costs. 

Losing your temper or becoming disruptive can go against you and make you look extremely unprofessional. 

Don't secretly record the meeting

Recording the meeting without consent may be considered a breach of privacy and you could be disciplined or worst dismissed, in some cases. 

If you want to record the meeting because you do not have a companion present to take notes for you, or you are unable to take notes yourself due to a medical issue, always ask for permission before recording, if it's allowed at all. The employer or investigating officer will make the decision. 

Don’t forget to appeal

You should appeal if your grievance is not upheld, even if you don’t believe you will be successful. This can highlight that you are serious about taking the issues further, which could help contribute to a  settlement.

If you didn’t appeal but were later successful in an employment tribunal claim, the tribunal could reduce any compensation awarded to you by up to 25%.

Get help with workplace grievances from Lawhive

Winning a grievance hearing is achievable with the right approach and preparation. By understanding the process, knowing your rights, and following the tips provided in this article, you can present your case effectively and increase your chances of a favourable outcome. Remember, being well-informed and composed is your best strategy in these situations.

If you’ve raised a grievance or you’re considering raising a grievance against your employer, our specialist employment solicitors are on hand to help you increase your chances of success.

To get started, tell us about your case and get a no-obligation fixed fee quote for your specific situation.

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