Expert Employment lawyers answer employers questions on grievances
The main reason employees raise formal grievances is to try and resolve an dispute at work. For example, they may be complaining about the way someone is treating them, or about a change in their job role. The grievance may also be the first step before they make a Tribunal claim.
No, you should always make sure that you deal with a grievance fairly and without unreasonable delay. From a practical point of view, it can help you to resolve matters before they escalate any further. Failure to deal with a grievance in accordance with the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures can lead to an increase of up to 25% on any compensation if your employee subsequently makes a successful Tribunal claim. A complete failure can lead to your employee claiming that you have breached mutual trust and confidence and they may resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
In order for the grievance process to be fair and meaningful, it should, as far as reasonably possible, be dealt with by someone impartial. You should consider whether there is anyone else connected with your business that could assist. For example, a non-executive director, or a Trustee if you are a charity. In some cases, you as the sole trader will not only have to hear the grievance but also hear the appeal. Seeking assistance from external HR Consultant to chair the meeting, even though you are the decision maker, should ensure that a fair process is carried out.
Your employee has a statutory right to be accompanied to a grievance hearing by a fellow worker, trade union representative or trade union official. If your employee’s choice falls into one of these categories you cannot refuse. You should also consider whether to allow a companion that falls outside of these categories if requested, for example, a support worker or family member. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee.
You can but you should carefully consider whether this is appropriate in the circumstances. It should be offered as an alternative option with your employee being given the choice to proceed with their grievance instead.
The content, timing and amount of the offer is important in order to avoid accusations of ‘undue pressure’ or ‘ambiguous impropriety’. You should also ensure that you follow the Acas Code of Practice on Settlement Agreements and Guidance.
It is not clear whether the Acas Code applies to grievances raised by former employees. However, to be on the safe side you should assume that it does. An Employment Tribunal is likely to take a dim view of a respondent that refuses to deal with a grievance. Dealing with the grievance is good practice and can help to avoid a Tribunal claim being made against you if you can show that you have a good defence. Also hearing a grievance and responding, having investigated fully, will enable you to assess whether their claim is valid.
This depends on the facts and the subject matter of the grievance. You should ask your employee what type of outcome they are seeking. Examples of common outcomes can include an offer of mediation or an apology, in the event that your employee has complained about treatment by a manager. It could be an offer of training if your employee has complained about their manager’s failure to support them. If it is a dispute where the facts are not certain you need to make a decision based on the “balance of probabilities”. Is it more likely than not that this employee is telling the truth? A thorough investigation is essential. You should consider obtaining specialist Employment Law or HR advice if unsure.
Your employee has a right to appeal your grievance decision if they are not satisfied with the outcome. You should inform your employee of their right to do so as well as the timescale for submitting their appeal. As far as possible the appeal should be dealt with by someone not involved with the original grievance and preferably more senior than the original decision maker.
Yes, your employee is not required to raise a grievance in order to make a Tribunal claim. However, if they fail to raise a grievance, and therefore fail to follow the Acas Code, any compensation they receive can be reduced by up to 25%.
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