Key points
§  Add a note hereMost employees have the right to receive a written statement from their employer explaining the principal terms and conditions of their employment. The statement must be issued within two months of the date on which the employee's employment began, and must, in every case, contain a note giving the name and/or job title of the person to whom the employee can apply for the settlement of any problem or grievance arising out of his employment, and the manner in which any such application should be made. Furthermore, if an employee can appeal to progressively higher levels of management until his grievance is resolved, the written statement must explain those steps or, at the very least, refer the employee to some other document that is reasonably accessible to him, and explains them (sections 1 and 3, Employment Rights Act 1996).
Add a note hereThe written statement of employment particulars referred to above must be issued to every employee, regardless of the number of hours he (or she) is required to work each week.
§  Add a note hereSection 2 of ACAS Code of Practice 1 on Disciplinary & Grievance Procedures contains a model procedure for the resolution of employee grievances and advises employers to establish a procedure for the fair and speedy settlement of employee grievances. The procedure, says the Code, should be in writing and should provide:
a.     Add a note herethat a grievance should normally be discussed first between the employee and his immediate supervisor or manager;
b.    Add a note herethat the employee should be accompanied by a colleague or shop steward at the second and subsequent stages of the procedure; and
c.     Add a note herethat the employee be given the right of appeal.
§  Add a note hereUnder section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999, a worker (whether employee or otherwise) has the statutory right to be accompanied at a grievance hearing by a fellow-worker or shop steward or full-time trade union official. A worker must not be subjected to any detriment for exercising that right, nor may he (or she) lawfully be dismissed (or selected for redundancy) for that reason. The accompanying worker is similarly protected and is entitled also to be paid time off work when accompanying a worker at a grievance hearing.
§  Add a note hereWhere trade unions are recognised, management should establish with them a procedure for settling collective disputes. The procedure should also be in writing and may include a procedure for dealing with any individual grievance that could develop into a dispute. The ACAS Code of Industrial Relations Practice, referred to earlier, identifies (at paragraph 126) two types of collective disputes. These are:
a.     Add a note heredisputes of right, that relate to the application or interpretation of existing collective agreements or contracts of employment; and
b.    Add a note heredisputes of interest, that relate to claims by employees, or proposals by management, about terms and conditions of employment.
§  Add a note hereThe procedure should state the level at which an issue should be raised; time limits for each stage of the procedure; and a clause that precludes a strike, lockout, or other form of industrial action, until all stages of the procedure have been exhausted.
§  Add a note hereAt each stage in the procedure, progressively higher levels of management should become involved. The trade unions, for their part, may seek the intervention of full-time officials and, ultimately, a national officer.
§  Add a note hereSome procedure agreements will call for the intervention and assistance of a conciliation officer of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) whose decision will be accepted as final and binding on all parties.
Add a note hereFuture developments
§  Add a note hereOnce section 29 and Schedule 2 of the Employment Act 2002 come into force (probably in the second half of 2003), all employers (regardless of the number of people they employ) will be required to adopt statutory grievance procedures (GPs), as well as statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures (DPPs) which may or may not fall short of employers' existing procedures for dealing with workplace grievances, disciplinary issues, and the like. Furthermore, those statutory procedures are to be imported as implied terms in every contract of employment. The planned statutory GP comprises a three-step procedure; and the modified version, a two-step procedure.
§  Add a note hereRegulations to be made under Part III of the 2002 Act will outline the circumstances in which either of these procedures is to be applied. Section 31 of that Act allows that a failure to follow those minimum procedures will result in tribunal awards of compensation for unfair dismissal being increased or reduced by between 10 and 50 per cent. The award will be increased by between 10 and 50 per cent if the failure is attributable to inaction on the part of a respondent employer, or reduced by between 10 and 50 per cent if attributable to a refusal or failure by the complainant employee to comply with a requirements of either procedure or to exercise his or her right of appeal under that procedure.