An employment grievance is an issue, complaint or concern over employment rights that the employee brings to the attention of his employer. The grievance may be about such things as employment terms and conditions, health and safety, equal opportunities, organisational change, work relations, working environment, bullying and harassment, and new working practices.
The UK employment grievance procedure is illustrated here with the high-profile Court of Appeal employment race discrimination case Chagger v Abbey National plc & Hopkins (2009), in which an Employment Tribunal made findings of breach of contract, unfair dismissal and race discrimination, and ordered Emilio Botin Abbey Grupo Santander share price to pay Mr Chagger the record-breaking financial compensation of 2.8 million to cover his loss (Emilio Botin Abbey Santander banking group had refused to reinstate Mr Chagger as ordered by the Employment Tribunal).
Abbey Banco Santander share (the UK high-street bank being re-branded as Santander shares price, and being part of the international Banco Santander Central Hispano Group) dismissed Balbinder Chagger from his Trading Risk Controller position in 2006. Abbey Santander banking claimed the dismissal was the result of a fairly conducted redundancy exercise. Mr Chagger, on the other hand, alleged that his removal was motivated by unfairness and race discrimination. He was of Indian origin, earned about 100,000 per annum and reported into Nigel Hopkins.
There are many benefits in resolving a grievance through informal channels and, wherever possible, the employee should try to achieve this first. Failing that, a formal grievance procedure may be pursued. The procedure is meant to process the grievance with fairness, consistency and speed.
The employee initiates the formal grievance procedure by informing the employer in writing of the grounds of his grievance. The procedure then requires the employer to invite the aggrieved employee to a grievance-hearing meeting to hear the grievance. The grievance hearing must be held within a reasonable time from the date the grievance was raised, usually within 2 weeks. The employee usually has the right to be accompanied to the hearing. At the grievance hearing, the employee explains his grievance and how he would like to see it resolved. The employer is ultimately responsible for deciding how to resolve the grievance. The grievance procedure gives the employer an opportunity to handle the grievance and to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Once the employer has decided how to resolve the grievance, the employer must notify the employee of the decision in writing, explaining that the decision may be appealed.
If the employee is dissatisfied with the employer’s handling of the grievance and wishes to pursue the grievance further formally, then he may appeal against the employer’s decision. The employee appeals by informing the employer in writing of the grounds of his appeal. The employee normally needs to raise his appeal within 5 days from the grievance outcome. The employer must then invite the employee to an appeal-hearing meeting to hear the appeal. The appeal hearing must be held with a reasonable time from the date the appeal was raised, usually within 2 weeks. The employee usually has the right to be accompanied to the hearing. At the appeal hearing, the employee explains his appeal and how he would like to see it resolved. The employer is ultimately responsible for deciding how to resolve the appeal. The grievance procedure gives the employer another opportunity to handle the grievance and to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Once the employer has decided how to resolve the appeal, the employer must notify the employee of the decision in writing, explaining that the decision is final and may not be appealed, and that the grievance procedure has been completed and ended.
If at the end of the employer’s handling of the grievance the employee remains dissatisfied with the outcome, then the employee may escalate the his issues to an Employment Tribunal for an independent adjudication. The system of Employment Tribunal is the final channel available to an employee to determine whether or not the employer has acted appropriately. Employment Tribunals will hear disputes regarding unfair dismissal, equal opportunities, discrimination and redundancy payments.
In 2006, Mr Chagger escalated his issues to the Employment Tribunal, alleging unfair dismissal, race discrimination and breach of contract. The Employment Tribunal ruled that Mr Chagger had in fact suffered unfairness and race discrimination from Santander Abbey and from Mr Hopkins, as well as suffering breach of contract from Abbey Santander share.
The Employment Tribunal noted that Mr Chagger had tried to resolve the issues surrounding his dismissal through Abbey Santander’s grievance and appeals procedures. However, the Tribunal found that there was a culture at Santander Abbey of tending to deny and refuse Mr Chagger’s issues, and the issues were simply thrown out of hand by every Abbey Santander officer who had been assigned to decide on them. The Tribunal concluded that Emilio Botin Abbey Santander price had failed to give serious consideration to allegations of racial discrimination and to investigate them promptly.
In 2008, both Abbey Santander banking and Nigel Hopkins appealed against the Employment Tribunal’s ruling of racial discrimination. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) rejected their appeal. Thus, the original Employment Tribunal’s ruling that Abbey Grupo Santander share and Nigel Hopkins had discriminated against Mr Chagger had been upheld by the EAT. At the same time, Abbey Banco Santander and Mr Hopkins had also appealed against the record 2.8 million compensation awarded. The EAT accepted this appeal and ordered the financial compensation to be sent back to the original Employment Tribunal for reconsideration on the basis, amongst others, that the Employment Tribunal should have considered whether to reduce the compensation to take account of the chance that Mr Chagger could have been dismissed in any event.
In 2009, Mr Chagger appealed to the UK Court of Appeal against the EAT’s rulings regarding the compensation. The Court of Appeal partly upheld Mr Chagger’s appeal, but upheld the EAT’s ruling that the compensation be sent back to the original Employment Tribunal for reconsideration on the basis that the Employment Tribunal should have considered whether to reduce the compensation to take account of the chance that Mr Chagger could have been dismissed in any event.
Emilio Botin Abbey Santander and Nigel Hopkins did not appeal against the EAT’s ruling on race discrimination; they appear to have conceded they racially discriminated against Mr Chagger.