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Information on grievances

What is a grievance?

A grievance procedure is the employee’s means for formally raising a complaint in the workplace against another employee or the employer.  The procedure is recognised in law, and works as an internal means to resolve complaints that might otherwise need remedy in the Employment Tribunal. For more detailed information on what a grievance procedure is and when you might need to invoke it, you can refer to the government and ACAS websites).

Many issues that might otherwise proceed to grievance can be resolved informally through supported discussion.  Some issues can also be solved by mediation, particularly cases that do not involve a power imbalance between the complainant and the person against whom they have a complaint.

The Grievance Procedure at Southampton University, and how we can help

The University’s Grievance Procedure is part of the Statutes and Ordinances, which you can access online here, or download here.  There is a flowchart that can also be helpful to see the process in stages.  It is important to understand how the process works: in almost every case, the University will have expected you to attempt to resolve the situation informally. This does not preclude the involvement of the union, and we sometimes find that early support and advice from the union can help you do this for yourself.  If this is not possible or appropriate, then you can ask for support from a caseworker.

Southampton UCU has a team of volunteer caseworkers, all employees of the university, who can represent members who feel they have been treated unfairly, or who have a complaint they wish to raise. Caseworkers can accompany members to meetings, and we often find that problems can be resolved at this stage – in fact, we often encourage members to make every effort not to go down the grievance route, as it is tiring and time-consuming for everyone. But if problems cannot be resolved informally, the caseworker can also assist if and when a member decides to invoke a formal grievance procedure.

If the procedure advances to a formal stage, it is important that the documentation you supply is as complete as possible.  Your caseworker can help you, but you will be the person who knows most about your situation and you will have to gather your evidence, so it is almost always best for the member to take ownership of the process, with the caseworker there to advise rather than to prepare the documents.

Tips for preparing the grievance documentation

  1. State in the letter that “This is a formal grievance submitted under Ordinance 3.12 Grievance for Academics and Staff Level 4+.” Ensure that you date your letter and include details of the incident and the date that it occurred.
  2. Provide an explanation of the incident(s) dates and evidence. Include reference to any informal steps that have been taken to try and resolve the issue and why they were unsuccessful.
    1. Include as appendices:
      1. Policy(s) that is breached – reference it and which section
      2. Your contract of employment
      3. Any relevant legislation
      4. Evidence – emails, letters, etc
    2. How you have been made to feel (particularly important in cases of bullying/harassment)
    3. Seek witness statement(s) or consent for any witness(es) to attend the hearing
    4. Make employer aware of any future evidence expected, ie Data Protection Act requests
  3. State what desired outcome you are seeking
    1. Do not ask for an individual to be disciplined
    2. Be reasonable and proportionate
  4. Include a date by which you expect to receive a response – Ordinance 3.12, s28 states you should receive a response from the Stage 1 manager acknowledging receipt of the grievance within five working days along with an anticipated timescale for the investigation to take place.
  5. Attach appendices

Please remember:

  • Try and keep the grievance succinct and focused.
  • It should not be too long.
  • Try to be factual and not too emotive.

You can download these tips as a PDF document here.