Raising A Grievance, And Defending Disciplinary Proceedings

If you raise a grievance with your employer, or they start disciplinary proceedings against you, the process should be handled without undue delay and should be confidential. Every employer’s procedures should follow the ACAS Code of Practice. While the Code is not legally binding, it sets out a general standard that an Employment Tribunal must take into account in deciding any unfair dismissal case. The Tribunal will use it as a best practice standard against which to judge an employer’s practices.

Grievances

You might raise a grievance about the things you are being asked to do as part of your job, or the terms of your employment contract, or the way you are being treated at work. A grievance can also be raised if you are being bullied, harassed or discriminated against.

Initially, you should raise the grievance informally, with your line manager or someone else in authority. You should state your concern clearly, and say what you would like to be done to resolve it.

If your concerns are not dealt with informally, then you should raise a formal grievance. Your employer should have a grievance procedure, which might be set out in your contract of employment, in an Employee Handbook, or on the company intranet. If this procedure does not result in matters being sorted out, ultimately you can bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal.

Discrimination At Work

Thankfully direct discrimination in the workplace on grounds of sex, race, disability, age, etc., is becoming rarer, but it does still happen occasionally. More common is indirect discrimination, where an employer’s actions or inactions mean that someone is treated less fairly on the grounds of their sex, race, or some other characteristic. An example is a ban on working part-time, which might discriminate against women, since they are more likely than men to request flexible working around childcare.

Every employee has the right to be treated fairly and appropriately, starting at the interview stage and continuing throughout their employment. The law protects employees against being discriminated against because of ‘protected characteristics’. You cannot be treated less favourably than another person due to your age, race, gender, disability, religion or belief, marital status, sexual orientation or maternity status. If you have been treated less favourably, then you may be able to make a claim against your employer for damages.

Harassment

Harassment or bullying in the workplace involves subjecting someone to behaviour that creates an offensive, intimidating, degrading or hostile working environment.
If you have suffered bullying at work, and have resigned as a result of this, you may have grounds for a claim of constructive dismissal or unfair dismissal.

Disciplinary Proceedings

If a disciplinary process is started against you, it should include an investigation, which might be a simple gathering of evidence, but can involve a formal preliminary hearing. Minor issues, such as poor performance and minor misconduct, should be dealt with informally by advice or counselling. Your employer should assist and encourage you to improve.

Where the matter is more significant, your employer may hold a disciplinary hearing and allow you to answer the allegations against you. You should receive written notice, including notification that you may be accompanied to the hearing. To enable you to prepare adequately the notification must give sufficient information about the alleged misconduct or poor performance and possible consequences including copies of any written evidence such as witness statements. At the hearing, you must be given a reasonable opportunity to answer questions and present your own case.

Afterwards, you should be given a record or note of the hearing. If the allegation against you was upheld, you should be given the right of appeal, to a different person or body. You can then make further representations.

Tribunal Claim

If you are unhappy with the result of the hearing (and any appeal), and feel that it is unfair, then you have the right to take the matter to the Employment Tribunal. In practice, employees do this only when the sanction imposed by the employer is severe, such as dismissal or demotion.

Costs And Time Limits

There is no fee to pay to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal, such as an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim, although you will need to pay your solicitors’ costs. If you win the claim, your employer will normally be ordered to pay you back these costs. If you lose the claim, the tribunal has the power to order you to pay back your employer’s costs, although this is rare.

The time limit for issuing a claim at the tribunal is very short: three months less one day from your last day of employment (for an unfair dismissal claim) or from when the discrimination happened (for a discrimination claim). So if your last day of employment is 15 March, the claim must be issued by 14 June.

It is important to take advice about a particular set of circumstances. Call us today to discuss your situation and how we can help.

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