Headaches and Heartbreaks: Strategies for Solving a Workplace Dispute

Workplace disputes happen and, when they happen to you, you should be prepared. If handled right, they can have positive outcomes. Here’s how to make it happen, even if the case is especially difficult.

Understand Your Rights

Most people don’t fully understand their rights under the law when there is a workplace dispute. Most problems will fall under one of two scenarios: grievances or disciplinaries.

A grievance is when you raise your concerns or problems to your employer. It may be a formal or informal complaint. A disciplinary is when your employer has concerns or problems with your work, conduct, or absenteeism.

Ideally, you can sort out any problem informally. Your employer should discuss any disciplinary issues with you in this manner before pursuing formal disciplinary action. Not only is this good form, it can save a working relationship as well as money on both sides.

If you were injured, your only recourse might be to contact Claims Direct to initiate a civil action, but this also means you will likely lose your job or will be disincentivised to work there.

Making A Formal Complaint

Formal complains are usually made in writing, but every employer publishes different requirements either in an employee handbook or through the HR published material. Some companies use an HR intranet site, though sometimes formal procedures can be found in your employment contract.

Your grievance letter should include:

  • A formal letter to your employer detailing your grievance.
  • A meeting date (proposed) for discussing the issue.
  • The actual meeting for discussing the issue.
  • The ability to appeal your employer’s initial decision.

The Appeals Process

The appeals process is used when the resolution does not favour you and you do not think that is it the correct resolution to the problem. Typically, your employer’s grievance and disciplinary procedure will spell out the rules for the appeals process.

It should detail who should submit the appeal and to whom, as well any time limits for the appeal, any meetings that will be held and how the appeal will be run and concluded.

You have the right to be accompanies by legal council during the appeal.

Mediation May Be The Answer

If you’d rather avoid going to court, then mediation might be the answer. Mediation, arbitration, or counciliation is when an independent third-party discusses the problem with you and your employer.

The final result is not legally binding but it is expected that both parties will adhere to the resolution. Also, the mediator cannot force the mediation on either you or your employer.

This option is used when an informal resolution to a problem will suffice. It should not be used when a formal investigation is required to sort out misconduct or other potentially illegal acts.

Do You Need A Tribunal?

Tribunals may be helpful if you’ve been unable to solve a workplace dispute through other informal means. You and your employer will present your case in front of the employment tribunal

More Help

If you need more help, you should contact Acas at 0300 123 1100, Citizen’s Advice, or talk to your trade union representative. Any one of these three will be able to help you.

Jacob Warner is a personnel director. He enjoys writing about business matters on the web. You can find his posts on many workplace and business blogs.