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How to Solve a Workplace Dispute

There will be times when employers need to solve a workplace dispute. This is a guide to informal discussions and formal procedures for solving disputes at work.

RESOLVING WORKPLACE ISSUES: As a rule, most employee problems fall into one of these two categories:

  • Grievances: Employees raise their concerns or problems and complain to their employer.
  • Disciplinaries: Employers have concerns about staff conduct, work performance, or their absence.

The first step with a work problem is to explain your concerns to your manager. Often, they can help you can sort a dispute using informal methods.

It can be helpful when staff suggest what they would like their manager to do to solve a workplace problem.

Employers should discuss disciplinary issues with their staff informally in the first instance. But, it can lead to cases of formal disciplinary action. That can also result in employee dismissals in the most serious or repetitive cases.

Employee Right to be Accompanied

All employees have the right to take a companion with them to a grievance or disciplinary meeting and any appeals. They can get support from either:

  • A work colleague or a trade union representative.
  • A family member or Citizens Advice Bureau worker (where allowed). You can check in your employment contract, company handbook or HR intranet site.

Grievances and Disciplinaries: Formal Procedures

There are steps to take if you were unable to resolve your problem by informal methods. You can make a formal grievance complaint if you have concerns. Likewise, you might face formal disciplinary action if your boss starts the process.

Grievance Complaints in the Workplace

Talking about the problem to your manager will often solve a dispute at work. But what should you do next if you are still not satisfied? The next step is to make a formal grievance complaint.

You should follow the guide that your employer put in their grievance procedure. They should have written the company policy in the:

  • Company handbook or your employment contract.
  • Human resources (HR) or personnel manual.
  • Human resource intranet pages.

Employers use grievance procedures for solving employee workplace problems. They should include these 3 basic steps:

  1. Informing employees to write a letter to their employer which sets out the details of their grievance.
  2. Setting up a meeting with the employer to discuss the issue.
  3. Pointing out the option for employees to appeal a decision made by an employer.

Disciplinary Action at Work

Employers can start disciplinary action if they have serious issues with their employees. As a rule, this action revolves around work performance and behaviour or conduct.

Your employer has several obligations to perform before you face disciplinary action. First, they should put their disciplinary procedure in writing to you. It should contain:

  • Disciplinary procedure rules of the organisation that you work for.
  • What kind of poor performance and behaviour can lead to disciplinary action.
  • What course of action your employer may take and informing you of your right to appeal.

Suspension from Work

Your employer can choose to suspend you in some cases. Most likely it will be as a result of you facing discipline over a serious or violent issue. Your suspension from work is likely to be during the time leading up to a disciplinary meeting.

Your employment contract or company handbook might show your entitlement to pay while you are in suspension from work.

Using Acas Code of Practice

Employers and employees should follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. This is especially so if you go to an employment tribunal because it can affect the result of your claim.

The tribunal have the right to adjust the amount of compensation awarded by up to 25%. The ‘Acas guide on discipline and grievances at work’ has more information.

Appeals Procedure

There is a specific process to appeal the result of a grievance or disciplinary procedure. An employee appeal cannot be verbal and must be in writing. A typical employer grievance and disciplinary procedures sets out:

  • The contact details of who you should submit your appeal to.
  • The specified time limit within which you must make the appeal.
  • What meetings will get held and how they will run.

Note: Employees have someone accompany them during any appeal meetings.

Guide to Mediation, Conciliation, and Arbitration

Employees can get help from a third-party to solve a work dispute between you and your employer. There are three main services you can use – mediation, conciliation, and arbitration.

Mediation Services

Mediation is usually an independent and impartial third party. They will discuss the dispute with you and your employer (or another employee). Using mediation services can often find a solution to workplace problems.

Types of mediation occur most when informal discussions fail to find a solution. Formal investigations, such as workplace discrimination or harassment in the workplace, should not use mediation services.

As a rule, mediation services are voluntary. The mediator cannot force either you or your employer to accept a final solution. You must both agree on the way forward for solving employee work problems.

Conciliation Resources

Using a conciliation resource is much like mediation but used more often when:

  • You already made a claim to an employment tribunal.
  • You expect to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Like mediation, conciliation is voluntary. You and your employer must agree to use a conciliatory service before it takes place.

Arbitration Services

Using an arbitration service is different. The third-party often makes a firm decision on the case after considering the issues.

Decisions made arbitrators do not become legally binding until both parties agree. If you and your employer fail to agree, you can still take your case to an employment tribunal.

Employment Tribunals

Sometimes you and your employer are unable to solve a work-related problem alone. In this case you may decide to use an employment tribunal.

You and your employer will both have an opportunity to present a case at an employment tribunal. The panel will ask some questions and then it will be the tribunal who makes the final decision.

How to Solve a Workplace Dispute or Employee Problem in the United Kingdom