Considering taking your employer to court? What to consider and next steps

Not all employers are good employers. Whether they have unlawfully deducted wages, denied you your annual leave entitlement or made inappropriate remarks in the office, you might be thinking about brining a claim against them. Most people immediately think about employment tribunals, however, ACAS the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, is the first step.

  • Define your grievance

Make sure you know what you are complaining about and, if you can, provide evidence. This may be in the form of emails and other written exchanges and if your complaint is about, for example, sexist or racist comments in the workplace, and keep track of each incident.

  • Raising the problem informally in the workplace

Depending on the nature of the grievance and your company structure, consider raising it with the HR department or someone more senior to you (unless they are the subject of your grievance!). They may be able to have a word with the individual involved while maintaining your anonymity.

  • Formal grievance

If an informal process is impractical, or does not yield the result you want, then a formal grievance is the next stage.

The company should have its own grievance procedure, often found in the staff manual or handbook, otherwise employers should follow the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. A firm’s own practice does not replace the ACAS Code (it should incorporate it) and it should be in writing and easy to find.

The company should make sure that grievances are dealt with fairly and consistently, that they investigate the issue to be fully aware of the all the facts, and the employee should be able to bring a relevant person (such as a trade union representative) to the grievance meeting. The employee who is facing a disciplinary should be allowed to appeal against the outcome.

What is considered fair and reasonable will depend on the size of the business, but that is no excuse not to follow ACAS guidelines

  • Approaching ACAS

You must tell ACAS before making a claim to an employment tribunal about a workplace dispute. You must bring a claim within three months less one day of the event about which you had a grievance. In an unfair dismissal claim, this would be within 3 months less one day of when you were dismissed, or in a discrimination case, within 3 months less one day of the last act of discrimination. If it is a claim about redundancy or equal pay, the claim must be made within 6 months.

When ACAS receive the early conciliation notification, the limitation period is extended to allow for early conciliation. This is a form of mediation, whereby ACAS will liaise between yourself and the employer to reach a settlement before the matter proceeds any further. It is a free service and is often quick than going to tribunal. There is less paperwork, and you can achieve results you may not otherwise achieve in tribunal, such as a good job reference. The process is voluntary, and either side can refuse to talk.

  • Tribunal

If you are still not satisfied with the outcomes, and talks break down, ACAS can issue an early conciliation certificate. You then have 1 month to make a claim in the employment tribunals (you may have longer depending on the type of claim). You would be the claimant and the employer would be the respondent.

For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email or visit our Linkedin page

Alina Dewshi

November 2021

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