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How to Handle an Appeal

Following our recent blog on the topic of responding to grievances, this week we are considering appeals.

Employees have a formal right to appeal decisions made by their employer in certain situations, such as if they have been given a disciplinary sanction, in response to the outcome of a grievance they have raised, or if they believe they have been unfairly selected for redundancy. 

There are also some situations where an employer may allow an employee the right to appeal – for example, there is no statutory right for employees to be able to appeal a decision regarding a flexible working request, however, many employers will do so as a matter of good practice.

If you are tasked with handling an appeal, here is an outline of the steps you should follow:

  • Check you are the right person to handle the appeal. Are you suitably independent of the original decision, and will your decision be seen as independent?  Ideally a person hearing an appeal should be senior to (or at least on a par with) the person who made the original decision in the organisational hierarchy.
  • Understand what the person is appealing and why.  Do they feel the process was unfair, have new evidence, or disagree with the outcome?  The employee should set out the grounds for their appeal in writing, but during the process you will also invite them to an appeal hearing to ensure you understand things fully.  This includes not just what they are appealing, but why as well.

It is important to focus on the points of the appeal, as an appeal process is not an opportunity for employees to raise new grievances that are entirely unrelated to the original case.  It is also helpful to ask what the employee hopes for as an outcome if they are appealing a grievance decision.

  • Ensure employees are given their rights.  The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance (available here: still applies at the appeal stage, and so you should ensure that the hearing is arranged without unreasonable delay and the employee is given the right to be accompanied (even if they didn’t want to have a companion at the original hearing).  It is also helpful to both parties to ensure accurate notes are taken and provided after the meeting.
  • Gather further information as necessary.  Once you have an understanding of the employees’ reasons for appealing, you may need to undertake further investigation, such as interviewing the manager who made the original decision or verifying the further evidence provided.  In some situations it may be necessary to re-hear the original case, for example if the originally process was unfair in a way that meant that the original evidence cannot be relied upon.  However, this is not applicable in most cases.
  • Consider your decision carefully.  There are a range of potential outcomes in an appeal case.  If you fully uphold an appeal then you will be agreeing with all aspects of the employee’s appeal, and may find yourself changing the original decision (e.g. overturning a decision to terminate somebody’s employment).  If you dismiss the appeal, then you will be finding against the employee.

However, there are decisions that fall between these two extremes:  you may partially uphold the appeal (i.e. agree with some points but not all), downgrade the outcome (e.g. convert a final written warning into a first written warning), and/or agree with the employee on some points, but find that these make no difference to the outcome (e.g. “I agree that there was an error in document numbering, but this does not change the final decision”).  The appeal is the employee’s last line of internal redress, and so it is important all options are carefully considered.

  • Respond in writing.  Employees should be informed of your decision in writing and in a timely manner.  Whilst it will probably not be appropriate to include every piece of information you have gathered throughout the appeal process, you should try to be transparent about how the final decision was arrived at, as this may help them accept a decision (particularly if it has not gone in their favour).  This letter should advise the employee that the decision is final.

We hope that this blog provides you with a few helpful hints and tips if an appeal does come your way.  If you are handling an appeal and feel you need further support, View HR are here to help – please contact us for a discussion.