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RESOLVING DISPUTES AT WORK:

New procedures for discipline and grievances

A GUIDE FOR EMPLOYEES

This guide tells you about new rights and procedures you must follow if

you have a grievance in work are facing disciplinary action or dismissal.

It is not a legal document and for further advice see contacts on page 1.

INTRODUCTION - THE NEW DISPUTE RESOLUTION

REGULATIONS

On 1 October 2004 the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution)

Regulations 2004 (called ‘the Regulations’ in this guidance) come into

force giving new rights and responsibilities to both the employer and

employee.

All employers must now have minimum procedures for resolving

grievances, disciplinary action and dismissal. Many employers may

already have procedures in place that go further. In which case there

would be no need to take action other than to confirm compliance with

the new procedures.

When you start work with a new employer, he or she must give you,

within two months of the starting date, a written statement of

employment particulars, such as pay and hours, and this must include a

note of the employer’s disciplinary and grievance procedures. In

particular, the note must set out any disciplinary rules which apply to

employees and tell you to whom you should go if you have a grievance.

Under the new Regulations an employer and an employee must in certain

circumstances, by law, follow these minimum procedures.

How does this affect you?

If you do not follow them it could be serious.

Unless you have first put your grievance in writing – and allowed at least

28 days to pass - you will no longer, as a general rule, be able to make a

claim to an Employment Tribunal based on a grievance with your

employer or former employer (unless your grievance is about dismissal).

If the grievance, disciplinary or dismissal procedures have not been

followed before the case goes to a tribunal, the tribunal will decide

whether that is the fault of the employer or you. If it is you, any money

awarded will normally be decreased by at least 10% and possibly up to

50%. If it is the employer’s fault, any money awarded will normally be

increased in the same way.

These new minimum procedures apply only to employees but not to other

workers who supply services to employers, for instance freelancers or

subcontractors. This is an important and complex point. If you need help, or advice on whether or not the procedures apply to you, you can contact your trade union representative or local Citizens Advice Bureau

www.adviceguide.org.uk. You can also get advice from Acas: at

www.acas.org.uk or on their helpline 08457 47 47 47; or the TUC’s website at www.worksmart.org.uk.

Key points

•Your employer is bound by law to have disciplinary, dismissal and

grievance procedures and to tell you what they are.

•Before using these procedures you and your employer should attempt to sort problems out informally where possible.

GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE

•You are now required to send your employer a written statement of

your grievance. Your employer must then arrange a meeting to discuss

it, and then tell you the decision. You have a right to appeal against

that decision at a further meeting and you must appeal to complete

the procedure in the Regulations. If you disagree with what your

employer decides to do after the appeal meeting, you will need to

make a claim to an employment tribunal if you want to resolve the

matter by legal means.

•As a general rule, you will not be able to make a claim to an

employment tribunal based on a grievance unless you have put your

grievance to the employer in writing and then allowed 28 days to

pass. This rule does not apply if your grievance is about dismissal, or

about disciplinary action that you agree was taken against you on

conduct or capability grounds (unless you think the action involved

unlawful discrimination against you).

DISCIPLINARY ACTION AND DISMISSAL PROCEDURE

•If your employer is contemplating taking disciplinary action against

you on conduct or capability grounds, or dismissing you, the

responsibility lies with him or her to start a dismissal or disciplinary

procedure.

•Your employer is required to send you a written statement of his or

her reasons and to arrange a meeting to discuss it with you. If you

disagree with the decision he or she makes after that meeting, you

have a right to appeal, and your employer must arrange a further

meeting. You must appeal to complete the procedure in the

Regulations. If you disagree with what your employer decides to do

after the appeal meeting, you may decide to make a claim to an

employment tribunal. Before doing so you may wish to take further

advice, possibly from your union representative if you are a union

member or local CAB.

THE MEETINGS

•You have a right to be accompanied to any meetings to discuss your

grievance, and any meetings about dismissal or disciplinary action

which your employer intends to take against you. You may choose to

be accompanied by someone you work with or a trade union official.

GOING TO A TRIBUNAL

•You can make a claim to an employment tribunal by completing a

claim form, available from Jobcentres, Law Centres and Citizens

Advice Bureaux, or online at www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk. You

should note that you will generally need to do this within a specified

time limit, which can be as short as three months beginning with the

day your employment ended or when the matter you are complaining

about happened. However, in certain circumstances this time limit

will be extended if you complete the first step of the statutory

procedure.

CHAPTER 1 - HOW TO RAISE A GRIEVANCE

Grievance procedures

Grievance procedures are procedures which enable you to raise any

concerns you have about your job with management. These concerns

could be about the work itself, your working conditions or about the

people you work with. Your employer must, by law, tell you in writing

what procedures you should follow at your place of work if you want to

raise a grievance.

The first thing to do if you have concerns is raise the matter with the

person specified in the grievance procedures, usually your line manager.

If this is not possible, or if your problem is with that person, you should

go to the next most senior person. Try to get the problem resolved

informally at this stage.

Although these first discussions are informal, you may find it helpful to

keep a brief note of any discussions you had, noting the date and time,

whom you spoke to, and the main points covered. These will be useful if

the problem is not resolved at this stage and you have to go on to more

formal procedures.

You should begin a formal grievance procedure if your employer fails to

resolve the matter to your satisfaction. If you do not begin a formal

procedure, you will not be able to make a claim to an employment

tribunal that your employer has failed to honour your statutory

employment rights. (This does not apply, though, if your grievance

concerns dismissal, or disciplinary action short of dismissal that you agree

was taken on conduct or capability grounds. See Dismissal and

Disciplinary Procedures for more details.)

If you do have to take matters further, the grievance procedure has three

steps:

The written statement

You must set out your grievance in writing and send a copy to your

employer. If you have problems expressing yourself in writing you can

ask for help at a CAB or, if you are a union member, from a trade union

representative. An example of a written statement is on page 16.

The meeting

When your employer has read your written statement he or she must

invite you to a meeting to discuss your grievance. He or she can allow

himself or herself a little time to look into your complaint but should not

delay for an unreasonable amount of time.

You have a right to be accompanied to this meeting by someone who

works with you or by a trade union official. The meeting must be held at

a time and place that are reasonable for you and anyone accompanying

you. If either of or you is disabled, the employer must take all reasonable

steps to make sure that you have no problems getting to the meeting.

You should attend the meeting. If for some reason you, or the person

you have chosen to come with you, cannot get there for a reason which

you did not know about when the meeting was arranged, the employer

must arrange another meeting and you should attend it.

Prepare carefully for the meeting and discuss the matter fully with anyone

you have asked to accompany you. If there is anyone there you don’t

know, ask your employer to introduce them. Your employer should

explain how the meeting will be held, who will speak and when. Your

employer should give you an opportunity to set your case out calmly and

clearly, and, if appropriate, to explain what you have done to try to

resolve the problem informally. Be proactive. Use the opportunity to

make some suggestions as to how the problem might be resolved. This

will help you and your employer. Be concise. If you have any other

grievances, consider if you need to raise them separately.

After the meeting – not necessarily straight away – the employer must

tell you what he or she has decided. If you do not agree with his or her

decision, you have the right to appeal, and your employer should inform

you of this.

The Appeal

If you feel that your grievance has not been satisfactorily dealt with, you

should tell your employer that you are going to appeal. An example of an

appeal letter is on page 16. He or she must arrange a meeting to discuss

this. The same rules apply to this as to the original meeting. It must be

at a reasonable time and place and you have a right to be accompanied. If

you do not appeal, but go straight to an employment tribunal with your

complaint, any money you are awarded may be reduced by between 10%

and 50%.

After the appeal meeting, the employer must tell you what he or she has

decided. This is his or her final decision. If you are still not satisfied, and

you think that your employment rights have been infringed, you may have

to take the matter to an employment tribunal (see chapter 3). But

discuss it first with your trade union representative or local CAB.

Raising a grievance after you have left your job

If you leave a job but still have an outstanding grievance, you can pursue

it using a shorter, two step procedure, known as the modified procedure,

if:

•You and your employer agree in writing to use the modified

procedure; and

•Your employer did not know about the grievance or the procedure

was either not started or was started but not completed before you

left the employment.

The two steps are:

1 You send a written statement of grievance to your former employer

2 Your former employer writes back to you, answering the points

you have raised.

When you do not need to go through the procedures, or the procedures

do not apply

•You have left the employment before the grievance procedure has

commenced and it is not reasonably practicable for you to write a

written statement of grievance.

•You have reasonable grounds for believing that that putting your

grievance in writing to your employer would result in significant

threat to you or your property or some other person or their

property.

•You have been subject to harassment and have reasonable grounds

to believe that putting the grievance in writing to your employer

would result in further harassment.

•You do not need to go through the procedures if the grievance is a

collective one, that is if a recognised trade union or workplace

representative raises it on behalf of two or more employees.

•Your employment has ended, you did not put your grievance in

writing to your employer before your employment ended, and it has

since become not reasonably practicable for you to do so, for

example if he or she has gone abroad.

•It is not reasonably practicable for you to put your grievance in

writing to your employer within a reasonable period, for example

because your employer is a sole trader and is not available due to

long-term illness.

•Finally there will be circumstances in which it is just not possible to

complete the procedures, for example if one of the parties leaves

the country or becomes seriously ill.

CHAPTER 2 - DISMISSAL AND DISCIPLINARY ACTION

If your employer is concerned about your conduct or capability, he or she

should try to sort things out with you before considering disciplinary

action or dismissal.

The new statutory minimum procedures come into play when the

employer actually contemplates dismissing you or taking other disciplinary

action against you. However, many employers already follow additional,

preliminary procedural steps – for instance, holding investigation

meetings and/or issuing a series of verbal or written warnings,

culminating in a final written warning – before reaching this point. If you

are already entitled to this as part of your terms and conditions of

employment, the new statutory minimum procedures do not change

things. They will need to be followed in addition to your employers’

previous procedures. Not to do so may count as unreasonable behaviour.

It would help to make a short note of any discussions you have with

management about a work problem, recording the date of the discussion,

whom you spoke to and the main points discussed. This may be useful if

your employer takes formal proceedings.

At the point your employer contemplates taking disciplinary action or

dismissing you, he or she should follow the minimum statutory

disciplinary procedures. “Disciplinary action” here means action taken on

grounds of your conduct or capability and does not include warnings or

suspension on full pay.

If your employer does not follow the new statutory minimum procedures,

and

1] dismisses you, you may complain to an employment tribunal, who will

normally find the dismissal to be automatically unfair and increase

compensation; or

2] takes other disciplinary action, short of dismissal, against you and you

subsequently make a successful employment tribunal claim about that

action, any money awarded to you is likely to be increased by between

10% and 50% (assuming the failure to follow the procedures was not

your fault).

The new statutory minimum procedures apply if you are an employee; on

a fixed-term contract of a year or more which is not renewed; and if you

are dismissed on grounds of age and you have not reached the age of 65

or, if different, the normal retirement age for your job.

Like the grievance procedure, the discipline and dismissal procedure has

three steps.

The written statement

Your employer must prepare a written statement of his or her reasons for

considering disciplinary action or dismissal and send you a copy of it.

Read the statement carefully. The statement should be clear and explain

your employer’s position. If you have trouble understanding it, discuss it

with a workmate or a trade union official or take it to a CAB.

The hearing

Once he or she has sent you the statement your employer must invite

you to a meeting to discuss the issue. He or she should allow you

enough time to think about what has been said but should not delay the

meeting for an unreasonable time.

You have a right to be accompanied to this meeting by someone who

works with you or by a trade union official. The meeting must be held at

a time and place, which is reasonable for you and anyone accompanying

you. If either of you are disabled the employer must take all reasonable

steps to make sure that you have no problems getting to the meeting.

You have a duty to attend the meeting. If for some reason you or the

person you have chosen to come with you cannot get there for a reason

which was not foreseen when the meeting was arranged the employer

must arrange another meeting and you must attend it.

Prepare carefully for the meeting and discuss the matter fully with anyone

you have asked to accompany you. If there is anyone there you don’t

know, ask your employer to introduce them. Your employer should

explain how the meeting will be held, who will speak and when. Your

employer must give you an opportunity to set your case out calmly and

clearly. Listen to what your employer has to say and give your side of

the case. Be concise. The employer may dismiss or take the disciplinary

action against you at this point.

The appeal meeting

After the meeting, your employer must let you know his or her decision.

If you want to appeal against this decision, you must tell your employer.

An example of an appeal letter is on page 17. You must appeal to

complete the statutory procedures.

Your employer must then arrange a meeting to hear the appeal.

Again you have a right to be accompanied to this appeal meeting by

someone who works with you or by a trade union official. The meeting

must be held at a time and place, which is reasonable for you and anyone

accompanying you. If either of you are disabled the employer must take

all reasonable steps to make sure that you have no problems getting to

the meeting. You have a duty to attend.

If for some reason you or the person you have chosen to come with you

cannot get there for a reason which was not foreseen when the meeting

was arranged, the employer must arrange another meeting and you must

attend it.

Prepare carefully for the meeting and discuss the matter fully with anyone

you have asked to accompany you.

After the meeting the employer must decide what he or she is going to

do and tell you what it is. This is his or her final decision and if you are

still not happy with it, and wish to continue, you will need to take your

case to an employment tribunal.

Can the grievance procedure apply to a dismissal or disciplinary

procedure?

You do not need to start a grievance procedure over a dismissal in any

circumstances (unless you are complaining about constructive dismissal –

i.e. you are claiming that you were forced to resign because of your

employer’s behaviour).

You can start a grievance procedure about disciplinary action if:

•you disagree with your employer that the action was taken on

conduct or capability grounds; and/or

•you consider that the action constituted unlawful discrimination

against you.

In either of these circumstances, you should put your grievance to the

employer in writing. Provided you do this before the appeal meeting under

the disciplinary procedure that meets the legal requirements. If you leave

it until after the appeal meeting under the disciplinary procedure has

already taken place, you should go through a full grievance procedure.

Instant dismissal

An instant dismissal when the employer has not made any investigation

of the circumstances is nearly always unfair. However there are some

very rare cases involving gross misconduct where tribunals have ruled

that the dismissal was fair because the circumstances made an

investigation unnecessary. In these cases the Regulations allow the

employer to dismiss first and then operate a two-step procedure going

straight from the written statement to the appeal without holding a

hearing in between.

When an employer does not need to go through the new procedures

There are some circumstances in which an employer is allowed to dismiss

someone or take disciplinary action without going through the

procedures. These are:

•If the action your employer takes is to give you a verbal or written

warning or suspend you on full pay. [If you do not agree with such

action you can raise a grievance].

•If there are reasonable grounds for believing that doing so would

result in significant threat to his/her person or property or some

other person or their property.

•Collective Issues, where discussion between management and

employee representatives is the best way of taking matters

forward. An example is when an employer lays off a group of staff

and either before or when the employment terminates offers to rehire

them under different terms and conditions.

•When the employer is under a duty to consult employee

representatives in relation to collective redundancies.

•When employees are dismissed whilst taking industrial action. (In

the case of lawful, officially organised action, special arrangements

apply.)

•When it is not possible for employment to continue, for example

when a factory burns down and it is no longer practicable for the

employer to employ anyone or where it becomes illegal to employ a

particular employee.

•It is not practicable for the procedures to be complied with within a

reasonable period.

CHAPTER 3 - APPLYING TO AN EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL

Employment Tribunals hear claims about matters to do with employment

such as unfair dismissal. The Tribunals are courts, but have less formal

procedures than the ordinary civil courts. Preliminary hearings, known as

Pre-Hearing Reviews (PHRs), usually take place before a legally-qualified

chairman on his or her own. Full hearings, which decide outstanding

issues and conclude cases, usually take place before three tribunal

members; the chairman, and two members who are experienced in

dealing with work related problems. Usually one of these members will

have a background in management and the other will have experience of

representing employees. If you would like more information, you can use

the Employment Tribunal public enquiry line on 0845 795 9775.

Time limits for making an application

There are time limits to follow when making a claim to a tribunal. In

unfair dismissal cases, this is usually three months from the date your

employment ended. In other cases, if the statutory grievance procedure

applies, the three months may be extended to six months (see paragraph

below). If your claim is received after the applicable time limit, the

tribunal will not normally accept it. Though, in certain circumstances, the

normal time limit will be extended for submitting tribunal claims, to allow

extra time for workplace discussions to continue, without obliging

employees to submit premature applications in order to meet deadlines.

It should be noted that the existing discretion of the tribunal to extend a

time limit where it was not reasonably practicable for it to be met (or,

under some jurisdictions, where it is just and equitable to extend it) is

unaffected by these changes.

There are certain types of cases which are subject to different time limits.

These are set out below under the heading ‘Special Cases’. In particular,

if your claim is concerned with equal pay the time limit is six months,

which may be extended to nine months if the statutory grievance

procedure applies in your case (see paragraph below).

If your claim is based on a grievance with your employer or former

employer, and the statutory grievance procedure applies, your claim will

not be accepted at all unless you either:

•Put your grievance in writing to the employer and then allow at

least 28 days to pass before putting in your claim to the tribunal

office; or

•Give a valid reason on the claim form why you think this legal

requirement does not apply in your case.

A list of valid reasons is set out below. Some of them involve complex

legal matters and if you are uncertain as to whether the reasons apply in

your case you should get advice from trade union representative or your

nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.

The reasons for not lodging a written grievance are:

•You were not an employee of the employer (but were, for instance,

a worker supplying services as a freelancer or contractor, or were a

job applicant).

•Your claim is brought under a law that is not listed in Schedule 4 to

the Employment Act 2002 - the main example is a claim about a

breach of contract (but you may still be penalised in terms of

compensation if you do not complete the procedures).

•Your employment has ended, you did not put your grievance in

writing to your employer before your employment ended, and it has

since become not reasonably practicable for you to do so, for

example if he or she has gone abroad.

•It is not practicable for you to put your grievance in writing to your

employer within a reasonable period, for example because your

employer is a sole trader and is not available due to long-term

illness.

•Your grievance is that you were dismissed or about disciplinary

action that your employer says was taken on the grounds of your

conduct or capability (unless you disagree that those were the

grounds, or think that the action was unlawfully discriminatory).

•You have reasonable grounds for believing that that putting your

grievance in writing to your employer would result in significant

threat to you or your property or some other person or their

property.

•You have been subject to harassment and have reasonable grounds

to believe that putting the grievance in writing to your employer

would result in further harassment.

•The grievance was put to your employer in writing by an

appropriate representative (for example, an official of a recognised

trade union) on behalf of you and at least one other employee.

•You have raised the grievance under an industry level grievance

procedure that has been agreed between at least two employers or

an employers’ association and one or more independent trades

unions.

•You have raised the matter that is the subject of your grievance as

a “protected disclosure” under the public interest disclosure

(‘whistleblowing’) provisions in the Employment Rights Act 1996.

•Your claim raises an issue of national security.

In certain circumstances the normal time limit for submitting a claim can

be extended by three months to allow you and your employer the chance

to sort out the dispute between you without involving the tribunal. These

circumstances are:

•You have raised your grievance in writing with your employer and

have done so within the normal time limit.

•You put your claim to the tribunal office within the normal time

limit but were turned down because you needed to put your

grievance in writing to your employer and either had not done so or

had not then allowed 28 days before putting in you claim. (Note

that in this case you must put your grievance in writing to your

employer within one month of the expiry of the normal time limit or

your claim will not be accepted in any circumstances).

•Your claim is about a dismissal, or about disciplinary action that

your employer says was on the grounds of your conduct or

capability, and at the time that the normal time limit expired, you

had reason to believe that a dismissal or disciplinary procedure was

still in progress.

Special cases

If you are applying for a redundancy payment special time limits apply.

These are complicated and you should seek advice from the Redundancy

Payment Helpline on 0845 145 0004.

If your complaint is related to the National Minimum Wage you should

seek advice from the National Minimum Wage Helpline on 0845 600

0678.

If you are dismissed because of:

•trade union activities;

•membership or non-membership of a trade union;

15

•activities as a pension scheme trustee;

•being, or proposing to become an employee representative;

•being a shop worker or betting worker who refuses Sunday work;

you can apply for an immediate re-employment order. This application

must be made within seven days of dismissal. You should seek advice

from your trade union representative, a CAB or the Employment Tribunal

Service immediately if you are in this position.

Costs

Unless you (or your representative, if you have one) abuse the system by

acting unreasonably, or by pursuing a claim which has no reasonable

prospect of success, you will not have to meet the respondent’s costs.

This is one of the ways in which the employment tribunals differ from the

ordinary civil courts.

The circumstances in which a claimant can be ordered to make a

payment towards a respondent’s costs (or preparation time, if the

respondent is not legally represented) are where the claimant (or

claimant’s representative) acts “vexatiously, abusively, disruptively or

otherwise unreasonably”, or brings proceeds with a misconceived claim.

Even then, when considering whether or not to make such an award, and

if so the amount, the tribunal may take into account the claimant’s ability

to pay.

If a respondent (or respondent’s representative) acts unreasonably, he or

she can be required to pay for the claimant’s costs (or preparation time).

Unreasonable behaviour by a respondent could include making unjustified

threats – e.g. threats that the claimant will be automatically required to

meet the respondent’s costs – to try to persuade the claimant to

withdraw the claim.

In 2003/04, costs awards were made in fewer than 0.1% of tribunal

cases. Only 998 awards were made – and a third of these were made

against respondents, rather than claimants. The average award was

£1,859. Awards are based on actual costs, reasonably incurred.

ANNEX - EXAMPLE LETTERS

Letter 1- Raising a grievance

Dear……………. Date………………..

I am writing to tell you that I wish to raise a grievance.

This action is being considered with regard to the following

circumstances:

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

I am entitled to a hearing to discuss this matter. I am entitled, if I wish,

to be accompanied by another work colleague or my trade union

representative. Please reply within (not more than 28) days of the date of

this letter.

Yours sincerely

Signed …………………… Employee

Letter 2 - Request for appeal hearing (grievance procedures)

Dear……………. Date………………..

On ………….. I was informed that the Company had decided to

…………………………………. based on my grievance of

…………………….. raised on ……………….

I would like to appeal against this decision. I wish the following

information to be taken into account:

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Please reply within x days fronm the date of this letter.

Yours sincerely

Signed …………………… Employee

Letter 3 - Request for appeal hearing (dismissal or disciplinary action

procedures)

Dear……………. Date………………..

On ………….. I was informed that ……………. [insert organisation name]

was considering dismissing OR taking disciplinary action [insert proposed

action] against me.

I would like to appeal against this decision. I wish the following

information to be taken into account:

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………

Yours sincerely

Signed …………………… Employee


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Thank you so much for such an informative PDF. can you also differentiate between complaints and grievance.What is the difference between the two and what is complaint procedure?
Hi is the same applicable is india also??? Pl guide as to is there any similar guidelines there in india
Can somebody tell me about the employement tribunals in India? Where do they exist and how to approach them? Rakesh
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