Grievances at Work

A grievance might be considered as the opposite of a disciplinary, if your boss is unhappy with your work or attitude you might be invited to a disciplinary hearing. However, if you are unhappy about something that is happening at work you are entitled to raise a grievance with your boss.

First stage

If you have concerns regarding your employment, in the first instance, it is normally appropriate to raise such complaints informally with your line manager or human resources department.  This means that you can simply tell them about the issue.

Raising a Formal Grievance

If the matter is not resolved informally you may wish to raise a formal grievance.  An Employment Tribunal will normally expect you to have raised a grievance with your employer before submitting a claim to the Tribunal.  In claims involving constructive dismissal it is likely to severely prejudice your claim if you have not raised a complaint with your employer before submitting a claim to an employment tribunal.

If you want to raise a formal grievance you should follow the company grievance procedure which is usually found in your staff handbook.  There should also be a mention of the procedure on your terms and conditions of employment. If these are not available, or don’t exist, your employer must still follow the ACAS Code as a minimum.

The statutory ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (the ACAS Code) came into force in April 2009.  The Code sets out the principles that you should follow when raising a grievance and those that your employer should follow when investigating and considering your grievance.  Please click here for the link to the ACAS Code

The ACAS Code applies to most types of claim that can be brought in the employment tribunal including discrimination, unfair dismissal, equal pay, working time, deductions from pay, breach of contract and detriment claims.

Effect on compensation

It is important to raise a grievance before issuing an employment tribunal claim as any award of compensation can be reduced by up to 25% if you unreasonably fail to do so.

Tribunals can only adjust the level of compensation where the claim is being brought by an “employee”, as opposed to a “worker” or “independent contractor”.

Examples of some of the types of claim where there is no power to adjust compensation are as follows:

Failure to give adequate written particulars of employment,

Failure to consult over TUPE,

Breach of requirements in relation to flexible working requests,

Failure to allow a companion at a disciplinary or grievance hearing,

Less favourable treatment of a part time worker or fixed term worker

The formal grievance must be in writing, so you need to write down the issues that you are complaining about and make sure the letter gets to the right person. The letter does not need to be posted, you can simply hand it to HR or to your boss, you can also raise a grievance by email if that is the normal method of communication in your workplace. Once your grievance has been received your employers should arrange for a meeting so that you can further explain what is worrying you.  If you like you can be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union representative if your complaint is about a “duty owed by the employer to the worker”- section 10 Employee Relations Act 1999. Following the meeting, you will be told what the outcome is – again this should be in writing and you should be given the right to appeal if you do not think the decision is fair.

A failure to raise a grievance in writing does not prevent you from bringing a tribunal claim about the matter but it may result in a reduction of up to 25% of any compensation awarded and it may also prejudice your claim.

Grievances during Disciplinary Proceedings

Often an employee will wish to raise a grievance during the course of a disciplinary procedure regarding either the disciplinary procedure itself or the circumstances leading up to it.  Where a grievance is raised during a disciplinary procedure an employer will consider whether to put the disciplinary procedure on hold whilst it investigates and considers the grievance or whether both procedures can be run concurrently. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this and it will be for the employer to decide on how it wishes to proceed.

A trap for the unwary

Employees must ensure that they submit any tribunal claim within the prescribed time limit failing which the right to claim may be lost.  It is important to be aware of the deadline for your claim and to ensure that you submit it even if you are still awaiting the outcome of your grievance or appeal from your employer.

Grievances and Constructive Dismissal

In some instances a failure by an employer to deal with a grievance properly will give rise to grounds to claim constructive unfair dismissal.  In the case of Blackburn v Aldi Stores Ltd UK EAT 0185/12 the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that failure to provide for an impartial grievance appeal process might contribute to or of itself amount to a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, entitling an employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal.

It is an implied term that the employer will give an employee a reasonable opportunity to obtain redress in respect of a grievance; a breach of this implied term will constitute a repudiatory breach – WA Goold (Pearmak) Ltd v McConnell (1995) IRLR 516.

If the outcome of a grievance and subsequent appeal is such that it is inconsistent with evidence referred to, for instance, this may give rise to grounds for a claim for constructive dismissal.

At Alpha Law we are able to offer advice and assistance if you have a grievance at work. This could include drafting of the initial grievance, guidance and negotiation, advice on potential claims, attendance at the hearing, help with preparation for the hearing, reviewing the grievance response and dealing with any appeal or subsequent tribunal claim.

Contact us today on: 0115 856 1625 or 0207408 9427 to talk about your grievance or disciplinary hearing issue with one of our specialist employment lawyers.