Employers can often feel overwhelmed when a grievance is submitted by an employee due to the time and effort often involved in investigating and resolving it. Some employers may find themselves in a situation where an employee raises multiple grievances which can be very disruptive to their business.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has recently considered a case, Hope v British Medical Association, where an employee raised a number of grievances against senior managers which he refused to either pursue or withdraw. This was because he wanted to discuss his grievances informally with a line manager who had no authority to resolve the issues. He also refused to progress the grievance formally or attend grievance hearings.
The employer had no choice but to deal with the grievances in the employee’s absences, and they were not upheld. The employer concluded that the employee’s conduct throughout the process had been frivolous and vexatious. It was also found that the employee’s repeated commencement of the grievance process without following it through amounted to an abuse of process. On this basis, the employee was dismissed for gross misconduct.
The employee brought a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal, with the Employment Tribunal finding that the dismissal was fair. The employee appealed the decision to the EAT on the basis that the Employment Tribunal had failed to consider whether the conduct relied upon was able to constitute gross misconduct in a contractual sense.
The EAT dismissed the appeal. It was held that whether an employee is in breach of contractual obligations is a potentially relevant consideration, but it is not fundamental and is merely one of the circumstances to be taken into account when considering whether a dismissal was fair under s98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The EAT confirmed that the real question is a statutory one of whether the employer acted reasonably in all the circumstances in treating the conduct as a sufficient reason to dismiss.
If you do have any queries in relation to handling grievances please do not hesitate to contact a member of the employment team / Gemma Wilson at Glaisyers ETL on 0161 833 5689 or Gemma.Wilson@glaisyers.com