you need to adjust your hours in light of childcare commitments or medical appointments, but your manager says no; you have been overlooked for a pay rise or promotion; a colleague is being hostile to you, making your working day miserable. Whatever the problem, the following points should help when trying to resolve it:
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- Keep a diary, noting how and when the problem arose, further incidents if it is ongoing, steps you have taken to resolve it and how colleagues/your employer responded. If you have to argue your case in formal proceedings, you will need this sort of detail.
- Check whether you have cause for complaint by reviewing your employment contract, office manual and/or HR policies & procedures. Seek advice at an early stage from your HR department, trade union rep or solicitor. Advice at the outset can strengthen your case later on, if formal proceedings are necessary.
- Try to talk to the person concerned, to see if you can resolve matters informally. If you feel unable to do this, or are unsuccessful, speak to the person next in line: your manager; their manager; your HR department; your trade union rep. Keep your own notes of any meetings you attend, and consider inviting a colleague along to take notes for you.
- If you are unable to sort it out informally, check your contract, office manual and HR policies & procedures for steps to deal with it on a formal footing. Many employers have a formal grievance procedure. You should implement this first, before resorting to the employment tribunal. If you go straight to the tribunal, even if your claim is successful, you could receive a lower settlement for having not tried the grievance procedure first.
- Take legal advice on how to present your formal grievance. This should maximise your chances of a successful outcome, whether at this stage or at the employment tribunal stage.
- Take legal advice on the time limit for bringing an employment tribunal claim, as it differs from case to case. In most cases, you must start your claim no later than three months minus one day since the behaviour/event in question. And in most cases, you must first notify the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) of your intention to bring a claim, so you have an opportunity to settle with the help of ACAS (“early conciliation”).
- Whichever route you take, be discrete. While it may be tempting to let off steam to colleagues, treat it as a private matter. If you end up in formal proceedings, there may be a requirement for those involved to keep it confidential.
- Be clear in your own mind what you want to achieve – whether a change to working practices, compensation (financial or otherwise) and/or for other people involved to be disciplined. Figure out in advance your priorities, where you are prepared to compromise and by how much. Your solicitor or trade union rep should be able to advise on the parameters of a reasonable settlement.
- Keep your long term as well as short term goals in mind. In particular, how important is it to preserve good relations with your employer? This could have a significant bearing on how you choose to proceed, when you have more than one option.