Grievance at work
Employment law- grievance at work
What is a grievance?
A grievance is any concern, problem or complaint that you may wish to raise with your employer. This could relate to just about anything, whether regarding working conditions, pay, failure of process, or any aspect of how your employer is treating you.
A grievance can be made at any time- even in response to disciplinary, redundancy or performance process against you if you consider your employers actions to be unfair, or unwarranted. You would usually be expected to lodge a grievance before claiming constructive dismissal, otherwise any damages you are awarded at an employment tribunal could be reduced.
Advantages of lodging a grievance
The lodging of a grievance enables you to protect your position by putting down a “marker” of why you are not happy. The timing of lodging a grievance is crucial. Whether you are in the midst of a redundancy process, facing poor performance allegations or suspect you are about to be dismissed on other grounds, the grievance process allows you to formally set out your complaints before your employer takes further action. This can often stop such further action by your employer in its tracks whilst your grievance is being investigated, and may frustrate your employer’s ability to proceed in the way they had originally intended. It can also act as a springboard for a negotiated settlement (see below).
What if you don’t lodge a grievance?
You don’t have to lodge a formal grievance, and a failure to do so does not prevent you from bringing a tribunal claim. It does mean any damages you are awarded at tribunal can be reduced by up to 25% if the tribunal believe that the dispute could have been avoided. If you can show that it would have made no difference, because the relationship had broken down beyond repair, then there may be a lesser percentage reduction, or none at all.
How do you raise a grievance?
If the complaint against your employer cannot be resolved informally, you should raise a formal written grievance without unreasonable delay in accordance with your employer’s grievance policy. This will usually provide that the grievance should be submitted to your line manager (or a more senior manager if the grievance relates to your line manager). The policy may provide that you should copy your grievance to HR, or only send it to the HR officer. In the absence of a policy, you should simply lodge the grievance in any event with your manager and/or HR.
The grievance should set out in as much detail as possible why you are dissatisfied. You should:-
- start by setting out that you would like to lodge a formal grievance;
- set out the circumstances ( for example, bullying, or discrimination), which has led you to write the grievance;
- explain why you consider any process (for example, in relation to redundancy or a performance improvement plan) is unfair;
- set out the chronology, with particular reference to relevant facts, including dates, times, parties to any discussions and reference to any relevant documentation;
- make reference, if relevant, to how your employer’s actions have affected your health.
We will review your grievance as part of our remit if we are negotiating a settlement with your employer on your behalf.
Please note that the lodging of a grievance does NOT stop the clock ticking for important time limits, like commencing the tribunal process for unfair dismissal, discrimination claims or failure to pay a bonus. You need to be aware of this in case your employer drags out the grievance process (perhaps on purpose).
How should employers deal with the grievance?
Employers should acknowledge the grievance and carry out any necessary investigations in relation to your complaint to establish the facts of the case.
You should be notified of the grievance meeting without unreasonable delay. You should also be given the opportunity to bring a work colleague or trade union official to the meeting. Such a person is entitled to fully participate at the meeting, providing support to you and putting questions to your employer. The only thing your companion cannot do is answer questions on your behalf.
At the actual meeting, you should be given the opportunity to properly put your case, together with any suggestions you have for resolving it.
After the grievance, is heard, your employer should write and inform you about the outcome as soon as is reasonably practicable. It may be, however, that further investigations arising from the meeting need to be made, and a further grievance meeting may therefore need to be held following this.
Does your employer have to put a disciplinary process on hold to hear your grievance?
A dismissal will not necessarily be unfair if your employer does not put disciplinary proceedings against you on hold to address your grievance. Each case will depend on its particular facts and your employer would have to show that not suspending the disciplinary process to investigate your grievance was a fair and reasonable position to take.
Right of appeal
You should be given the opportunity to appeal if you are not satisfied with the outcome of your grievance. Your employer should arrange a further meeting to discuss your appeal, which should if possible, be heard from a different and more senior manager.
Can I raise a grievance after I have left?
Yes, you can, but from a practical point of view your employer is not obliged to engage in the process or grant you a right of appeal, as the grievance process is intended to resolve disputes with existing staff, not ex-employees. Any grievance you have should really be lodged whilst you are still an employee- even if you are working your notice.
What happens if the grievance is successful?
If your grievance outcome is upheld, you may feel able to carry on working (assuming that any additional remedy required is put into place by your employer). In fact, if the grievance is lodged and upheld before matters become to serious, your employer is likely to have some protection if you decided to subsequently resign and claim constructive dismissal. Where your employer is guilty of a fundamental breach, however, they cannot mend that breach simply because they upheld the grievance or take other remedial steps. You would still in these circumstances, have the right to resign and make a claim.
What happens if the grievance is unsuccessful?
If your grievance is unsuccessful, then you can either appeal it, simply resign, or resign and claim constructive dismissal. This latter claim would be on the basis that t you have been forced to leave because of a fundamental breach of contract on your employer’s part.
Negotiating an exit
Whether or not the grievance is successful, there is always the option of trying to secure a negotiated exit with your employer under a settlement agreement, in which you would receive a lump sum financial package for giving up your employment rights. This happens frequently in employment situations, not least because by the time the grievance is lodged, the relationship is likely to have broken down at that point in any event. The timing of negotiations does, however, need to be right and your case should be properly set out. This is a situation which have come across thousands of times, and where we have very successfully secured significant settlement packages for our clients.
It is often best to obtain early legal advice if you have a grievance at work. This is because the nature and form of the grievance has to be accurate and put across your position in the best light. There may be angles that you have not thought about and it is easy to either include the wrong thing, or omit something that should have been incorporated. In many cases, employees are looking to exit the business whatever the outcome of the grievance, which is something we come across all the time.