q What Can I Do If I Am Being Treated Unfairly at Work? - Thrive Law

What Can I Do If I Am Being Treated Unfairly at Work?

Employment Law, For Employees

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that during the course of employment, from time to time, some individuals can, unfortunately, be placed in a difficult position by their employer or suffer unfair treatment in comparison to their colleagues. This can occur for a multitude of reasons or factors; it may be because of a simple dislike, which would be bullying, or it may be because of a protected characteristic, which would be discrimination.

Informal Resolution

Should an employee be treated unfairly at work, the first step we would recommend would always be that they raise the matter informally where possible. You may wish to raise this with a manager, but where the unfair treatment is from a manager, you may wish to escalate above them or raise your concerns with someone at an equal standing as the manager. This may open productive communication enabling both parties to come to an amicable solution.

Should an employee still be unhappy with any suggestions from their employer in this respect, the next step they may undertake is to raise a formal grievance. How to do this is usually explained in the company’s grievance procedure.

Acas Guidance

Acas’, also known as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, guidelines indicate that an employee should formally raise a grievance if

  1. they feel raising it informally has not worked,
  2. if they do not want it dealt with informally or
  3. If it’s a very serious issue, which requires immediate or prompt action. A good example of this would be where there is criminal activity, or someone is in danger.

Acas advises that employees’ grievances should focus on three key areas including what the grievance is about, what evidence the employee has and what outcome they would like their employer to consider.

Raising A Formal Grievance and the Process

Before raising a formal grievance, employees should check their workplace grievance policy in order to understand the procedure and who they should send their grievance too. If employees are in doubt with the process, they should contact their line manager or their HR department, alternatively, employees can also talk to their trade union (if they have one) for advice and support.

Employers must acknowledge this grievance as soon as possible, and investigate it fairly by holding a grievance meeting and keeping the employee affected notified, before coming to any conclusion.

The Grievance meeting 

When a formal grievance has been raised, employers should typically arrange to hold a meeting within 5 working days, allowing the employee enough time to prepare for this meeting. In order to keep this procedure fair, Acas advises employers to consider information or evidence from all sides and to see if a similar grievance has happened before and aim to follow the same fair procedure, whilst keeping a confidential record of the meeting, any evidence gathered, any points to investigate and any decisions or actions are taken.

An employee or worker can legally be accompanied to a grievance meeting, this is also known as ‘the right to be accompanied’ and maybe a colleague or a trade union representative. Employers are expected to follow the Acas codes of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, this is regardless of the size of a business or organisation.

Employers are expected to adhere to strict standards, including remaining impartial, making notes of the meeting, taking due care when deciding on any actions, intervening the meeting if investigations still need to take place and summarising the meeting points in closing.

The employee should then receive copies of the meeting notes and be notified once a decision has been reached.

An employer should decide on the best outcome based upon the findings from meetings and any investigations that may have taken place, whilst deeming what is fair and reasonable as well as if any similar grievances have been undertaken. The employer should then deliver their outcome as soon as this has been reached, in writing. For information on how to appeal a disciplinary or grievance outcome, please follow this link here.

Escalating Your Case Further

Should you wish to escalate your case further, Acas is a mandatory first step in any Tribunal claim. During these Acas proceedings, a conciliator assigned to your case who will act as a mediator between you/your legal representative (if you have instructed one) and your employer in order to try and settle your case and in an attempt to secure settlement.

Acas has many helpful resources for both employers and employees, for further information on this, please follow the link here.

You can also get help from Citizens Advice on how to raise a grievance here.

How can Thrive help?

If you are concerned or think you are being treated unfairly at work and don’t know what to do, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help!

If you are an employer and are concerned in relation to an employee, we would be happy to advise you how to deal with this properly in order to minimise the risk of an employment claim arising and the consequential adverse publicity that may follow now that all Employment Tribunal judgements are published online.


By Uthman El-Dharrat and Alicia Collinson

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