Ask the Lawyer: Grievances

Unfortunately, grievances do arise in the workplace and employers may therefore be faced with the daunting and time-consuming task of dealing with the complaints raised. Employers need to ensure that they know what to do when a grievance is raised and how to minimise the risk of potential claims and upset to staff. Dealing with grievances is not always straight forward and therefore to help you out we have considered some frequently asked questions regarding grievances.  

Can an employer ignore a grievance?

No, an employer should always take grievances seriously and ensure that they deal with them fairly and consistently. Failing to deal with a grievance appropriately could give rise to a constructive unfair dismissal claim or discrimination claim. In addition, a failure to follow the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures could lead to an uplift of up to 25% in any compensation subsequently awarded to the employee.

If an employee raises a grievance against the owner of a small business and there is no-one else to investigate what should they do? 

Grievances should be dealt with by an impartial person. Therefore, in this case it would be sensible to appoint an independent and impartial third party to deal with the grievance. This could be another business owner whom the employer trusts, or the employer could obtain help from a professional HR personnel or legal professional. The employer should not deal with the grievance themselves because if the employer fails to deal with the grievance fairly then the employee could resign and claim constructive dismissal, effectively arguing that the employer has breached their implied duty of trust and confidence.

Does an employer have to deal with a grievance raised by an ex-employee?

The Acas Code is silent on post-termination grievances, and therefore there is no express requirement to deal with grievances raised by an ex-employee. However, to be on the safe side, employers should deal with grievances raised by ex-employees. Dealing with such grievances is good practice and will help prevent an Employment Tribunal claim being raised against the employer. Please note that if an employer has their own grievance policy/procedure in place, then they should check to see whether or not they have an express obligation to deal with grievances raised by ex-employees. 

Can an employee ignore the employer’s grievance procedure and go straight to the Employment Tribunal?

Yes, employees can bring a claim arising from a grievance before the Employment Tribunal without following their employer’s grievance procedure. However, if an employee has unreasonably failed to follow the Acas Code of Practice, then an Employment Tribunal may reduce any compensation payable to them by up to 25%.

If you are an employer who needs advice regarding grievances or an employee who wishes to present a grievance or has already done so, then please contact us on 029 2034 5511 or