Talking to your employer about a problem

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

If you have a problem at work, it’s usually best to start by talking to your employer about it. You might be able to sort out the problem informally.

Preparing what you want to say

Before you talk to your employer, you should think carefully about what you’re unhappy about and what you want to say. This will help you to remember everything when you meet with them.

Gather together anything relating to your complaint - like the date and time of the incident, any conversations you’ve had about it since then and any emails or letters you can find that relate to your problem.

This can help you clarify exactly what your complaint is, and make it easier to discuss when you need to.

You should also think about what you want your employer to do about it.

You might find it helpful to talk to friends, colleagues or your union representative (if you’re a member of a trade union). They might be able to tell you how a similar problem was dealt with.

Meeting with your employer

Arrange a meeting with your manager or supervisor to discuss the problem. If you don't feel comfortable talking to them, ask someone from the HR department or another manager.

You can ask if someone can go to the meeting with you if you don’t feel able to go on your own. This could be a friend, colleague or your union rep. Your employer doesn’t have to agree to this, though.

At the meeting, tell your employer what you’re unhappy about and ask them about the reasons for their actions.

Tell them what you think should happen and show them any evidence you have to support your position. For example, if you didn’t get holiday pay, show them what your contract says about this and your payslips.

Keep a note of what was said at the meeting, particularly of any action your employer agrees to take. If you have someone with you at the meeting, they could take the notes for you. If your employer agrees to do something, make sure they set a date for doing it so that you can chase them if necessary.

Your notes will help if you have to take the matter further. For example, you’ll be able to use them as evidence if you raise a grievance or go to a tribunal.

Writing to your employer

If talking doesn’t solve the problem, it might help to send an informal letter or email. You can send it to

  • your manager or supervisor

  • a more senior manager

  • your HR department

Mention what’s happened, including what you’ve already done to try to resolve the problem and how your employer can solve the problem.

Include copies of any evidence, such as emails or letters from your manager.

If talking to your manager doesn't help

If your letter doesn’t get the response you’re hoping for, or you want the problem dealt with more formally, you could raise a grievance. Your employer should have a formal process for dealing with grievances.

If you can’t resolve your problem by speaking to your employer or raising a grievance, you might be able to take your employer to an employment tribunal.

If you want to make a tribunal claim, you’ll need to do early conciliation first.

You must start early conciliation within 3 months less 1 day of what you’re complaining about. If you’re getting close to the deadline, start early conciliation even if your grievance hasn’t been resolved yet.