A grievance occurs when an individual thinks that he is being wrongly treated by his colleagues or supervisor; perhaps he or she is being picked on, unfairly appraised in his annual report, unfairly blocked for promotion or discriminated against on grounds of race or sex.
An employee grievance is an indication of his discontent or dissatisfaction. It may be expressed by him or he may not communicate it. It can be real or imaginary, legitimate or ridiculous, stated or unvoiced, written or oral. It must, however, find expression in some form or the other.
Dissatisfaction or discontent per se is not a grievance. They initially find expression in the form of a complaint. When a complaint remains unattended and the employee concerned feels a sense of lace of justice and fair play, the dissatisfaction grows and assumes the status of a grievance.
When an individual has a grievance he should be able to pursue it and ask to have the problem resolved. Some grievances should be capable of solution informally by the individual’s manager. However, if an informal solution is not possible, there should be a formal grievance procedure.
Dissatisfaction : maybe defined as anything that disturbs an employee, whether or nor such unrest is expressed in word e.g. engineers and technicians may be upset because they are suddenly instructed to observe regular hours.
Complaint: It is a spoken or written dissatisfaction, brought to the attention of the supervisor and the union leader. The complaint may or may not specially assign a cause for dissatisfac-tion e.g. “four times this morning I have had to chase around looking for the pliers”.
Grievance: It is simply a complaint which has been formally presented in writing, to a management representative or a union official. But for the most people, the word “grievance” suggests a complaint that has been ignored, overridden or dismissed without due consideration.
Termination of Employment
The Employment Rights Act 1996 lays down minimum periods of notice for both employer and employee. A contract of employment may not permit either side to give less than the minimum period of notice. However, either party may waive his right to notice or take a payment in lieu, and the Act does not affect the right to terminate a contract without notice in the event of gross misconduct.
The contract of employment may be terminated by either party for any reason or for no reason upon giving notice of a reasonable length, unless the contract is one for a fixed term or unless it specifically restricts the reason for which it may be terminated.
At common law either party may lawfully terminate the contract summarily, eg sacking without giving any notice, if the other party has committed a serious breach of the contract. The general principle justifying summary dismissal is that the employee’s conduct prevents further satisfactory continuance of the employer-employee relationship, eg misconduct including disobedience, insolence and rudeness, committing a criminal act such as stealing, or causing injury through practical jokes.
Dismissal is the ultimate sanction in any disciplinary procedure. However, dismissals occur most frequently in’ the form of redundancy. Statistics published by the Department of Em-ployment list the major reasons for dismissal as redundancy, sickness, unsuitability and misconduct in that order. Legislation in Britain during the 1970s, notably the Industrial Relations Act 1971, the Trades Unions and Labour Relations Act 1974 and the Employment Protection. Act 1975; the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 and now the Employment Rights Act 1996, makes it a difficult and costly business to dismiss employees because of the provisions for employees to challenge the employer’s decision. However, in recent statistics published by the Department of Employment it was revealed that only a proportion of cases of unfair -dismissal actually reach industrial tribunals; the majority are dealt with by some form of concilia-tion and arbitration.
Dismissal May be Fair Or Unfair:
Fair dismissal – there is a statutory obligation for an employer to show that a dismissal is fair. In this case a dismissal is fair if it is related to:
A lack of capability or qualifications – where the employee lacks the qualifications, skill, aptitude or health to do the job properly. However, in all cases the employee must be given the opportunity to improve the position or in the case of health be considered for alternative employment.
Misconduct includes the refusal to obey lawful and reasonable instructions, absenteeism, insubordination over a period of time and some criminal action. In the last case, the criminal action should relate directly to the job; it can only be grounds for dismissal if the result of the criminal action will affect the work in some way.
A statutory bar occurs when employees cannot pursue their normal duties without breaking the law, eg drivers who have been banned.
Unfair dismissal – in all cases there are two stages of proof. Firstly, the circumstances that represent fair grounds for dismissal must be established, and secondly, the tribunal must decide whether dismissal is fair in the circumstances of the case in question.
For dismissal, to be automatically unfair, it must be for one of the following reasons.
Trade union membership or non-membership
Sex or race discrimination
Revelation of a non-relevant spent conviction
Provisions for Unfair Dismissal
Where employees feel that they have been unfairly dismissed they have the right to take their case to the industrial tribunal. The tribunal will normally refer the case to ACAS (Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service) in the hope of gaining an amicab1e settlement. The possible solutions or remedies for unfair dismissal include:
Withdrawal of notice by the employer. This is the preferred remedy as stated in the Employment Rights Act.
Reinstatement (order of industrial tribunal) – this treats the employee as though he or she had never been dismissed. The employee is taken back, to his old job with no loss of earnings and privileges.