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Workplace grievance procedures

Since 1st October 2004, all employers have had to have a disciplinary and grievance procedure, and to notify their employees of it. However since 6th April 2009, the statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures have been repealed.

Although any ongoing disciplinary or grievance (here after D&G) started before that date are still covered. The original intention of making D&G procedures statutory was an expectation that claims for unfair dismissals would be significantly reduced, in fact the reverse happened with year on year per cent age increases (last year by about 15%). So instead ACAS have produced a Code of Practice that sets out what the features of D&G procedures should contain. The code is not legally binding and a failure to follow it will not make any dismissal arising out of a disciplinary matter automatically unfair.

However the recommendation set out in the code (not applicable to redundancy dismissals or the non-renewal of fixed term contracts) will be taken into account by tribunals. Specifically, an employment tribunal will be able to adjust the amount of compensation (by up to, plus or minus 25%, which is down from the 50% previously) if it has not been reasonably followed. Employees facing disciplinary action should be given adequate time to prepare a defence, and should have the opportunity to give and call evidence and to call witnesses.

You have the right to be accompanied and for you to chose either a full-time union official (whether or not the union is recognised), a certified lay official (someone the union has trained to accompany individuals to hearings) or a workplace colleague. The worker and companion have protection against any detrimental act or dismissal in connection with excising this right of accompaniment. Hearings must be heard within a reasonable time period. The guideline steps are as follows:

1. Written statement

You should set out your grievance in writing (often called a ‘step one letter’). Your employer’s grievance procedure should say who to send your letter to. If that’s the person causing the problem, or if they’ve ignored previous complaints, send it to the HR department or to the person’s boss.

2. Meeting

Your grievance should be looked into in a fair and unbiased way. Your employer should invite you to a meeting (sometimes called a hearing) to discuss the problem and you should attend if you can. If there is someone else involved, they might also be there (but you should tell your employer if you are uncomfortable with this). If you ask your employer beforehand, you have a legal right to take a ‘companion’ (who is a colleague or trade union representative) to the meeting with you.

3. Appeal meeting

If you’re not satisfied with the decision, or you think the procedure followed was seriously flawed, you have the right to an appeal. Your employer should give you enough time to appeal. If they don’t, make your appeal anyway, and say that you’ll provide more information later. If you are considering taking your issue to an Employment Tribunal you may want to appeal even if it seems pointless, because a tribunal award could be reduced if you don’t.

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