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Vic says: know your rights - grievance

25 April 2013

This is my second briefing in our series about topical matters that affect members in West Coast following on from questions that we get asked and situations that emerge.

In this briefing, I will be discussing the essentials of what you need to know
should you consider taking a grievance forward. In particular, I want you to
know what your rights are, what your employer should do when they receive
your grievance and where you can get help from.

It is worth pointing out that Virgin West Coast, like most companies, have their
own company grievance procedure but what follows are the general points that
you need to know.

But I will start by advising you that there are two types of grievance:

  • Individual – that by its name relates only to one person and is what I describe here;
  • Collective – where two or more people have the same issue and which is progressed through the collective bargaining process.

What is a grievance?

According to the ACAS Code of Practice1, a grievance relates to “concerns,
problems or complaints that employees raise with their employer.”
Using that definition, examples of a grievance situation that could arise are:

  • being asked to do things that are not part of your job or for which you haven’t had appropriate training;
  • the interpretation or application of your contractual terms and conditions, perhaps pay, overtime or annual leave;
  • your treatment at work, such as not being given a promotion when you think you should be;
  • discrimination, when you find yourself treated differently either by colleagues or a manager because of your gender, race, age, disability, faith or sexuality.

How does a grievance work?
In the first instance, an employee who has a grievance needs to raise the issue with their manager informally (or if the grievance is about their manager, with another manager, perhaps HR) without unreasonable delay. In the event that the manager refuses to deal with the issue, or the matter is just allowed to remain outstanding with vague promises about looking into it,or the answer received doesn’t address the issue sufficiently, the employee should then raise the matter, without delay, and in writing with their manager. That letter should state clearly that the issue:

  • is a grievance
  • explain briefly what the problem is
  • if you’re in the TSSA, that you wish to be represented by a union rep.

Then what happens?
The manager should then convene a meeting without unreasonable delay and discuss the issue with the employee and their representative and, if required, carry out an investigation. A decision should then be made and conveyed to the worker in writing (some managers may want to discuss it with the employee so the meeting will be reconvened). You have the right:

  • to be accompanied. If you’re a TSSA member, a trained union rep will represent you if you request it;
  • to produce evidence to support your case;
  • to an appeal, if you are unhappy with the manager’s decision about your issue 

If your case relates to discrimination in any of its forms – including Equal Pay – I would always advise you to speak to a rep or myself before you submit the initial grievance because of legal issues that need to be incorporated.


Further advice
For further advice and guidance about issues that affect you, please contact your TSSA staff rep or myself. We only give advice to members of TSSA.

Why you need to join TSSA
Advice and representation (including legal) is just one of the many benefits of being a member of TSSA. If you wish to join, you can apply on line at:


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