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Introduction to this document

Delayed grievance investigation letter

If there’s a genuine, unavoidable delay in your investigation into an employee’s grievance, it’s important that you keep them appraised of the position. You can use our letter to do this.

Notice of delays

How long a grievance investigation takes will very much depend on the nature of the grievance, how many witnesses need to be interviewed and/or how much documentary evidence needs to be located and collated. Some grievances will need little (if any) investigation, but others may be much more complex and require numerous witnesses to be interviewed, etc. Once you’ve made a rough assessment of what the investigation needs to comprise, set a timescale for it to be completed by the appointed investigating officer in order to try and keep things on track. Our Letter Appointing a Grievance Manager then asks the appointed investigator to let you know if they’re going to be unable to meet the investigation deadline that you’ve set. The main reason for this is because you need to keep the employee informed about any delays in dealing with their grievance. Otherwise, you risk the possibility that they may resign and claim constructive dismissal, on the basis that there’s been a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, if they believe their grievance isn’t being dealt with, either at all or in a timely manner. Our Delayed Grievance Investigation Letter is to send to the employee to keep them in the picture about what’s going on.

An unreasonable delay?

The Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures says that a formal grievance meeting should be held “without unreasonable delay after a grievance is received”. So, your investigation needs to be swift and ideally it should be completed in a matter of days. For a complex investigation that’s clearly going to take time, you could start by holding the grievance meeting first, adjourn it for the investigation to be conducted and then rearrange it once that investigation has been completed. Whatever approach you adopt, you can’t afford to unnecessarily delay things as the Acas Code also says that, after the grievance meeting, you need to communicate your decision to the employee on their grievance “without unreasonable delay”, so the emphasis throughout is very much on dealing with the grievance in a timely manner.

Reasons for delayed investigation

That said, sometimes there are unavoidable delays. For example, it may be appropriate to delay the investigation for a short period because a key witness is unavailable for interview, e.g. they’re on annual or sick leave, or because you’re having difficulties locating a key document. Alternatively, the investigator themselves may unexpectedly go off sick part-way through their investigation – but if this becomes protracted, you should appoint someone else to take over the investigation. We’ve covered all these scenarios in our letter, but there may be others, in which case you can add to our letter as appropriate. The important thing is that the delay is reasonable and due to circumstances outside your control - don’t be tempted to delay just because work is busy and you think you have more important things to be getting on with!