advising on all areas of employment & discrimination law
Raising a grievance
If you have concerns in the workplace, you can either speak with your employer informally, normally your line manager or raise a formal grievance through the company’s grievance procedure. Most employees find it is best to try and raise any concerns informally at first as this may resolve their concerns more swiftly. However you may decide to raise a formal grievance straight away if it is a serious complaint, the complaint is about your immediate managers and you are concerned that the matter is unlikely to be resolved without formal action.
A grievance is effectively a complaint and should be put in writing so that there is a record of your concerns. Most employers have a grievance policy and this should be followed by both you and your employer.
You can raise a grievance about any aspect of your employment, from issues about your conditions of work, pay, bullying and harassment, or discrimination. Your employer should take any grievances raised seriously and promptly investigate any concerns. It will usually be appropriate to hold a meeting with you, both to discuss their concerns and how you would like the issues to be resolved. Following the meeting, you will normally receive a written outcome, which may propose how your concerns can be resolved. If your grievance is not upheld, you should be given the opportunity to appeal the decision.
The ACAS Code of Practice https://www.acas.org.uk/acas-code-of-practice-on-disciplinary-and-grievance-procedures sets out the minimum standards of fairness that an employer should adopt when dealing with a grievance. If an employer (or an employee) unreasonably fails to follow the ACAS Code and you bring a claim for unfair dismissal, an Employment Tribunal can take this into account and increase or reduce any compensation awarded by up to 25%.
If you are considering bringing a claim in the Tribunal, you must still comply with the usual time limits even if you are pursuing a grievance. In most cases, the deadline to bring a claim is three months less one day after the last act you want to complain about. For instance, if you were subjected to discrimination on 18 June 2020, you would have to bring a claim no later than 17 September 2020. In certain circumstances it may be possible to rely on a continuing series of acts, however, you should seek specialist advice to ensure your claim is brought in time.
The Citizens Advice Bureau website https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/problems-at-work/dealing-with-grievances-at-work/ has some useful information about raising a grievance, along with a template letter which you can adapt.
Data Subject Access Request
One way of finding out what information an organisation (including your employer) holds about you is to submit a Data Subject Access Request (“DSAR”). Under the General Data Protection Regulations, you are entitled to copies of all your personal data.
Read here on the Information Commissioner’s website about Your Right of access to your data https://ico.org.uk/your-data-matters/your-right-to-get-copies-of-your-data/
Unless your employer has one, there is often no specific form for you to complete when making a DSAR. You should put any DSAR in writing and make clear that it is a DSAR. The ICO recommends that you also set out the scope of the request. For example, you should ask for your personal data within a certain time period, that you give all iterations of your name you want the organisation to search for your data against, and the broad categories of documents that you want – for example, if you have been disciplined, you might want to see what documents your employer has that includes your personal data. An organisation is entitled to ask you to provide some form of identification and it is best to provide this at the time of making the request to avoid delays. An organisation cannot normally charge you a fee for providing your personal data, unless the request is excessive, in which case any fee should be reasonable and only cover the administrative costs of providing the information. When providing responses it can anonymise the data so that other individuals’ identities are not revealed.
Normally an organisation must comply with a DSAR within one calendar month, however, if the request is complex an organisation may extend the timeframe for replying by an additional two months (i.e. a maximum of three months in total). If an organisation needs longer than the standard period of one month, it should write to you within this time period and explain why an extension is necessary. Download our DSAR template here.
If an organisation fails to provide you with copies of your personal data within the timeframe, you can report this to the Information Commissioners Office. The ICO is an independent body and has the power to investigate and fine organisations who breach data protection law.
ACAS Early Conciliation
Early conciliation is a free and independent service offered by ACAS which can help you resolve an employment dispute with your employer. ACAS stands for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
In any event, before lodging a claim with the Tribunal, you must contact ACAS and go through their Early Conciliation process by completing their Notification Form online. Here is the link https://tell.acas.org.uk/find-a-solution-to-your-employment-dispute.
If you do not contact ACAS before lodging your claim with the Employment Tribunal, it will be rejected.
You must contact ACAS on or preferably before the deadline to lodge your Employment Tribunal claims, which is usually three months less one day after the last act you want to complain about. For instance, if you were dismissed on 18 June 2020, you would have to bring a claim no later than 17 September 2020. In certain circumstances it may be possible to rely on a continuing series of acts and the deadline would start from the date of the last act in this series. However, we do recommend that you seek legal advice to ensure you know what are the right time limits are for any claims you may have, as it can be difficult to work out.
Provided you contact ACAS before the deadline, going through the Early Conciliation process extends the time in which you have to file your claim. There are however complicated rules as to how long the time limit is/can be extended, and therefore we do again recommend you get proper legal advice.
Once you have completed the Early Conciliation Notification form, an ACAS officer will contact you and ask for details about the dispute. If you agree, ACAS will contact your employer and give the parties the opportunity to try and resolve the dispute without going to the Tribunal. If either you or your employer does not want to try and resolve the dispute informally, or the dispute cannot be resolved, ACAS will issue an Early Conciliation certificate. You need to keep this safe as you will need its reference number if you decide to lodge a claim with the Tribunal.
One last word, if you submit your own Early Conciliation Notification form, make sure you get the name of your employer correct. Claims have been disallowed because the correct entity for the employer was not filed against – we wouldn’t want that to happen to you.
Click here for the ACAS information on early conciliation: https://www.acas.org.uk/early-conciliation
The CAB website is also excellent, particularly for explaining the quite complicated rules around time limits: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/problems-at-work/using-early-conciliation/
There is a wealth of useful information available online, and lots of free advice to steer you in the right direction.
Useful guidance on their Equality page around Disability Discrimination and other kinds of discrimination. They have a simple question and answer format on the website covering common questions arising and an excellent telephone helpline 08457 47 47 47 which is managed from Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm.
Rights at work. https://www.acas.org.uk
The Equality and Human Rights Commission Advice and guidance on equality and discrimination law. Their Statutory Code of Practice has a wealth of information about discrimination rights and can be downloaded.
Government Office for Disabilities
Leading the Government’s vision of equal opportunities for those with disabilities. Useful guidance on the definition of disability in the legal and work context.
Advice and guidance on equality and discrimination law. Their Statutory Code of Practice has a wealth of information about discrimination rights and can be downloaded here: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/employercode.pdf
Maternity Action: https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/
Working Families: https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/
Employment rights: https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/article-categories/your-employment-rights-information-and-support/
Public Concern at Work
Public Concern at Work is the whistleblowing charity. Established in 1993, they have led the new approach to whistleblowing that-both at home and abroad – recognises the key role it can play in anticipating and avoiding serious risks that arise in and from the workplace.
Employment/Work Issues: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/
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