Disputes in the workplace can be stressful and can impact an employee’s performance. They will often have a knock on effect on the growth and productivity of a business. There are a number of ways in which disputes can be resolved which include an informal discussion, lodging a formal grievance, negotiating an exit by way of a settlement agreement or instigating legal proceedings via a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
In the event that your contract or working conditions are changed to your detriment it is advisable to raise this as a concern with your employer so that changes are not seen to have been accepted. It is also important to keep a written note of events. In the event that you cannot informally resolve an issue with your employer you can lodge a formal grievance, the procedure for which may be contained within your contract of employment or in the staff handbook. Grievance policies should be aligned to the ACAS Code of Conduct on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (see www.acas.org.uk).
If the matter does proceed to a claim in the Employment Tribunal it is important to be aware of the strict time limits in place. It is now compulsory to instigate the ACAS Early Conciliation Process before issuing proceedings at the tribunal. This process effectively “stops the clock” in relation to the strict three month time limit within which an Employment Tribunal claim can be brought.
In some instances it will be possible to negotiate an amicable exit package and avoid the process of an Employment Tribunal by way of a settlement agreement. To this end, the concept of “protected conversations” was introduced to facilitate the process. In all cases it is advisable to obtain advice from an employment law specialist or, if you are a member of a Trade Union, your Union official can advise. You can also receive advice and direction from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or ACAS.