Grievance procedure

Updated on 27 June 2022

How the University deals with grievances.

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Policy statement

The University aims to deal with grievances promptly, fairly, consistently and as near as possible to the point of origin. Grievances are concerns, problems or complaints that members of staff raise with their employer.

This Procedure conforms to the Employment Act 2002 and reflects the ACAS Code of practice and Guidance on Disciplinary Practice and Procedures post 5 April 2009.

Informal procedure

Where there is an open policy for communication and consultation, problems and concerns may often be raised and settled as a matter of course. Members of staff should aim where possible to settle a grievance in the first instance informally with their line manager.  Many problems can be raised and settled during the course of everyday working relationships. This also allows for grievances to be settled quickly. The member of staff should explain their complaint and how they would like to see it resolved. 

Mediation may also be considered and the University’s policy for its early dispute resolution (edr) initiative should be consulted. It should be noted that if the member of staff felt that edr or an informal route was not appropriate the individual may choose to make a formal grievance.

The University has separate procedures for dealing with grievances on particular issues (for example, harassment and bullying and equality issues). In these circumstances, the Dignity at Work and Study procedures may be used instead of the normal grievance procedure.

Where a member of staff has raised a grievance informally with their line manager, the line manager should respond to the grievance as soon as possible but normally no longer than 3 working days after it was first raised.

If the complaint concerns the immediate line manager, the grievance should be raised with the next line manager.

The outcome of any informal meeting should be confirmed in writing.

If it is not possible to resolve a grievance informally the member of staff should raise it formally in writing with their Dean of School/Director. This should be done in writing and without unreasonable delay and should set out the nature of the grievance.

Those bringing forward a grievance and those who have given evidence in their support will be protected against victimisation. An allegation of victimisation will be dealt with under the relevant disciplinary procedures.

Formal procedure

Where some form of formal action is needed, what action is reasonable or justified will depend on all the circumstances of the particular case. 

That said, whenever a grievance process is being followed it is important to deal with issues fairly. There are a number of principles to this which are summarised as follows:

Issues should be raised and dealt with promptly and there should not be unreasonable delay arranging meetings and confirming decisions.

The University and members of staff should act consistently.

The University representative should in conjunction with the People team carry out any necessary investigations to establish the facts of the case.

All parties concerned should have an opportunity to outline their case before any decisions are made.

Where a member of staff will be entitled to be accompanied at any formal grievance meeting by their trade union representative or work colleague.

A member of staff will be entitled to appeal against any formal decision made.

In the event of a formal grievance being raised the following formal procedure must take place:

If a grievance has not been resolved through informal discussions, a formal meeting between the line manager and the member of staff will be arranged normally within 5 working days of receiving the written complaint or otherwise without unreasonable delay and at a reasonable location.

The member of staff may, if they wish, be accompanied to the meeting by a Trade Union representative/official or a University colleague. The member of staff’s representative may put forward the case, sum up, respond to a view expressed on the member of staff’s behalf. The member of staff should however answer questions. The representative cannot address the meeting if the member of staff does not wish this and cannot prevent the University’s representative from explaining the case from their point of view.

A representative from the People team would also normally be present.

The University’s representative, the member of staff and their representative should make every effort to attend the meeting.

If the member of staff or their representative can not attend on a proposed date, the Dean of School/Director will suggest another date normally not more than 5 working days after the date originally proposed.

The member of staff should be allowed to explain their complaint and how they would like to see it resolved.  The meeting should be conducted as an occasion where discussion and dialogue may lead to an amicable solution and should be approached in a non-confrontational way.

Consideration should be given to adjourning the meeting to undertake further investigation or to allow more detailed consideration of the grievance if this is necessary. It is acknowledged that there may be circumstances when the union representative may request an adjournment if evidence needs to be further clarified.  If agreed by the Chair as reasonable, this will be done without undue delay.

A written response will be given to the member of staff within 7 working days following the meeting to communicate what action the University intends to take to resolve the grievance and to advise of the appeal available if the member of staff is not satisfied with the decision made. 

Potential outcomes will be that the grievance is upheld, partially upheld or not upheld.

10 If the grievance is upheld, notification in writing will be given as to how the grievance will be addressed.

The member of staff will be advised in the letter that they have the right to appeal if not satisfied with the decision.

Appeal procedure

An appeal against the outcome of the grievance should be submitted, in writing, to the University Secretary within 10 days of receipt by the member of staff of the written notice of the outcome unless in exceptional circumstances such as serious illness or bereavement when a delay can be agreed.

On receipt of an appeal, the University Secretary or their delegated nominee will set up an Appeal Committee:

For staff in categories: academic related; research; clerical; technical and manual, the panel members will comprise:

  • Three senior University officials not previously involved in the case:
    • A Chair
    • A member of the University who has knowledge of the area of work or relevant expertise. This person will be agreed by both parties.
    • A senior member of the People team
  • For academic staff previously covered by Statute 16 i.e. Lecturer (Teaching & Research); Lecturer (Teaching & Scholarship;  Senior Lecturer (Teaching & Research); Senior Lecturer (Teaching & Scholarship); Reader, Professor, and including the University Secretary and the Director of LLC,  the panel members will comprise:
    • An external solicitor (Convener)
    • A member of academic staff, appointed by Senate, and
    • A further person, independent of the case) will be co-opted for specific expertise.  This person will be agreed by both parties.

The member of staff has the right to be represented by a trade union representative or a work colleague throughout the appeal process.

The Appeal Committee will hear the appeal within 5 weeks.

Both the University representative (the individual/Chair of Grievance Panel which decided on the outcome) and the appellant will submit to the University Secretary a written statement of case and names of witnesses they have arranged to call no later than 5 working days prior to the date of the Appeal Hearing.

The statements of cases and names of witnesses from both University management and the appellant will be copied to the other party and both cases and sets of witnesses’ names will be passed to the members of the Appeal Committee prior to the Appeal Hearing.

The member of staff will have the opportunity to state their grounds of appeal.  Where the member of staff is unable to speak on their own behalf their trade union representative or work colleague will be entitled to speak on their behalf.

At the Appeal Hearing the appellant and/or representative will be invited to present their case first, followed by the University’s management representative(s).  The Appeal Committee members may ask questions of either or both parties and both parties will have the opportunity to cross-question the other. The Appeal Committee will decide, at its discretion, the order of proceedings regarding witnesses’ evidence and procedural matters.

The Appeal Committee will decide whether the outcome of the grievance is upheld, or not.

The Appeal Committee’s decision will normally be communicated to the appellant within 7 working days of the Appeal Hearing.

The decision of the Appeal Committee is final and there is no further right of appeal.

Collective issues

If more than one member of staff wishes to raise the same grievance, and the individuals feel that it can be dealt with collectively, the same procedure will be followed as for individual grievances (Sections 2, 3 and 4).

Any written submission should clarify the details of the grievance and should normally be signed by all members of staff who are party to it.  If the written submission is electronic it needs to be clear within the document that each individual agrees to the grievance going forward.

If there is a large group of staff with the same grievance, the group may opt to appoint a spokesperson, and if so all communications will pass through the appointed spokesperson.  It will be for the spokesperson to communicate with the rest of the group about the progress of the case. In such cases, it is not necessary for all those involved to be present at meetings, and appropriate representative numbers should be agreed at each stage.

If a collective grievance arises the ‘status quo’ will prevail and there shall be no stoppage of work or any other industrial action by either party and no alteration shall be made by the University to the terms and conditions of employment, procedures and working practices at issue until all the procedures specified in this procedure have been exhausted.

Where a grievance involves collective issues of principle, and has not been settled informally, the complaint should be submitted in writing by the recognised trade union to the University Secretary. The written submission should clarify the details and the individuals who are party to the collective grievance.

The matter will then be referred to the Local Joint Committee and an extraordinary meeting will be arranged within 4 weeks after receipt of the collective grievance by the University Secretary. A decision will be jointly agreed at the Local Joint Committee as to how the matter will be resolved through the Local Joint Committee process.

Issues not resolved through the Local Joint Committee process will be referred to the University Court requesting that it establishes a Panel to consider the matter. The Committee of Court’s decision will be final unless an important issue of principle arises which should be referred by either side to the appropriate National Negotiating Body or ACAS for resolution. 

Arrangements in respect of the Principal

The principles of the University’s Grievance Procedure will apply to the Principal including the right to representation.

Should the Principal wish to raise a formal grievance this should be submitted in writing to the Chair of Court. 

The Chair of Court will appoint an Investigating Officer of his/her choice to undertake an investigation.  The Investigating Officer may be external to the University.

If the Chair of Court considers the outcome of the investigation to be of a serious nature he/she will appoint two external lay Court members to join him/her on a Grievance Committee to hear the case.

The Principal will have the right of appeal against the outcome of the Grievance Committee.  A panel of three Court external lay members not previously involved in the case will hear the appeal, the outcome of which will be final.

Appendix 1 - Order of Proceedings for Grievance Appeal Hearing


  • Introduction
  • Purpose of Hearing
  • Procedure
  • Roles
  • Any questions

Employee’s Case

  • Employee or Representative presents case
  • Chair/Panel to ask any questions
  • University representative to ask any questions

University Case

  • University representative, XName will present University case
  • Chair/Panel to ask any questions
  • Employee or Representative to ask any questions

Employee’s Witnesses

  • Employee or Representative calls each witness and asks the witness questions relevant to the case
  • Chair/Panel to ask any questions of witness
  • University representative to ask any questions
  • Any further questions from Employee or representative

University’s Witnesses

  • XName, University representative calls each witness and asks the witness questions relevant to the case
  • Chair/Panel to ask any questions of witness
  • Employee or Representative to ask any questions
  • Any further questions from University representative

Final statement from University representative

Final statement from Employee or Representative

Close Meeting

  • Confirm that the Chair/Panel will now consider the evidence
  • Once a decision has been made on what, if any, action is to be taken this will be confirmed to Employee in writing (give timescale)


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