(1) This policy is based on and complies with the 2009 ACAS Code of Practice
It aims to encourage and maintain good relationships between the Council and its employees by treating grievances seriously and resolving them as quickly as possible. It sets out the arrangements for employees to raise their concerns, problems or complaints about their employment with the Council. The policy will be applied fairly, consistently and in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.
(2) Many problems can be raised and settled during the course of everyday working relationships. Employees should aim to settle most grievances informally with their line manager.
(3) This policy confirms:
- employees have the right to be accompanied or represented at a grievance meeting or appeal by a trade union representative or work colleague. The companion will be permitted to address the grievance/appeal meetings, to present the employee's case for his /her grievance/appeal and to confer with the employee. The companion cannot answer questions put to the employee, address the meeting against the employee's wishes or prevent the employee from explaining his/her case
- the Council will give employees reasonable notice of the date of the grievance/appeal meetings. Employees and their companions must make all reasonable efforts to attend. If the employee's companion is not available for the proposed date of the meeting, the employee can request a postponement and can propose an alternative date that is within five working days of the original meeting date.
- any changes to specified time limits must be agreed by the employee and the Council
- an employee has the right to appeal against the decision about his/her grievance.
The appeal decision is final
- information about an employee's grievance will be restricted to those involved in the grievance process. A record of the reason for the grievance, its outcome and action taken is confidential to the employee. The employee's grievance records will be held by the Council in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998
- recordings of the proceedings at any stage of the grievance procedure are prohibited, unless agreed as a reasonable adjustment that takes account of an employee's medical condition
- if an employee who is already subject to a disciplinary process raises a grievance, the grievance will normally be heard after completion of the disciplinary procedure
- if a grievance is not upheld, no disciplinary action will be taken against an employee if he/she raised the grievance in good faith
- the Council may consider mediation at any stage of the grievance procedure where appropriate, (for example where there have been communication breakdowns or allegations of bullying or harassment). Mediation is a dispute resolution process which requires the Council's and the employee's consent.
Informal Grievance Procedure
(4) The Council and its employees benefit if grievances are resolved informally and as quickly as possible. As soon as a problem arises, the employee should raise it with his/her manager to see if an informal solution is possible. Both should try to resolve the matter at this stage. If the employee does not want to discuss the grievance with his/her manager (for example, because it concerns the manager), the employee should contact the chairman of the staffing committee or, if appropriate, another member of the staffing committee.
Formal Grievance Procedure
(5) If it is not possible to resolve the grievance informally, the employee may submit a formal grievance. It should be submitted in writing to the chairman of the staffing committee.
(6) The staffing committee will appoint a sub-committee of three members to investigate the grievance. The sub-committee will appoint a Chairman from one of its members. No councillor with direct involvement in the matter shall be appointed to the sub-committee.
(7) The sub-committee will investigate the matter before the grievance meeting which may include interviewing others (e.g. employees, councillors or members of the public) .
(8) Within 10 working days of the Council receiving the employee's grievance, the employee will be asked, in writing, to attend a grievance meeting. The sub-committee's letter will include the following:
- the names of its Chairman and other members
- a summary of the employee's grievance based on his/her written submission
- the date, time and place for the meeting. The employee will be given reasonable notice of the meeting which will be within 25 working days of when the council received the grievance
- the employee's right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague
- a copy of the Council's grievance policy
- confirmation that, if necessary, witnesses may attend on the employee's behalf and that the employee should provide the names of his/her witnesses at least five working days before the meeting
- confirmation that the employee will provide the Council with any supporting evidence at least five working days before the meeting.
The grievance meeting
(9) At the grievance meeting:
- the Chairman will introduce the members of the sub-committee to the employee
- the employee (or companion) will set out the grievance and present the evidence.
- the Chairman will ask the employee what action does he/she wants the council to take
- any member of the sub-committee and the employee (or the companion) may question any witness
- the employee (or companion) will have the opportunity to sum up the case
- the Chairman will provide the employee with the sub-committee's decision, in writing, within five working days of the meeting. The letter will notify the employee of the action, if any, that the council will take and of the employee's right to appeal
- a grievance meeting may be adjourned to allow matters that were raised during the meeting to be investigated by the sub-committee.
(10) If an employee decides that his/her grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved by the sub-committee, he/she may submit a written appeal to the staffing committee. An appeal must be received by the Council within five working days of the employee receiving the sub-committee's decision and must specify the grounds of appeal.
(11) Appeals may be raised on a number of grounds, e.g.:
- a failure by the Council to follow its grievance policy
- the decision was not supported by the evidence
- the action proposed by the sub-committee was inadequate/inappropriate
- new evidence has come to light since the grievance meeting.
(12) The Appeal will be heard by a panel of three members of the staffing committee who have not previously been involved in the case. There may be insufficient members of the staffing committee who have not previously been involved. If so, the appeal panel will be a committee of three council members who may include members of the staff committee. The appeal panel will appoint a Chairman from one of its members.
(13) The employee will be notified, in writing, within 10 working days of receipt of the appeal of the time, date and place of the appeal meeting. The meeting will take place within 25 working days of the council's receipt of the appeal. The employee will be advised that he/she may be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague.
(14) At the appeal meeting, the Chairman will:
- introduce the panel members to the employee
- explain the purpose of the meeting, which is to hear the employee's reasons for appealing against the decision of the staffing sub-committee
- explain the action that the appeal panel may take.
(15) The employee (or his/her companion) will be asked to explain the grounds of his/her appeal.
Complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO)
(1) Although the LGO has no jurisdiction in respect of parish councils, it might be useful for parish councils to know something about the jurisdiction of the LGO so that they can assist members of the public (including, perhaps councillors) to complain to the LGO where appropriate. The legislation is contained within sections 26 and 27 of the Local Government Act 1974 ('the Act'). The key points to remember are:
- parish councils are unable to lodge complaints as a public body (section 27(1) of the Act) about another local authority or public body defined at section 25 of the Act but this does not prevent individual councillors from making complaints about another local authority or public body in their personal capacity. In their official capacity, if so requested by member(s) of the public, a parish councillor could represent them in making complaints. Please note:-
- complaints must be made in writing;
- complaints must be made within 12 months of notice of the matters which are subject to the complaint;
- complainants must first give the authority in question notice of the complaint and give them an adequate opportunity to investigate and reply to the complaint. This usually entails exhausting that authority's complaints procedure;
- the Ombudsman may not investigate matters which are or have been subject to a right of appeal; and
- the Ombudsman may not investigate matters where the complainant has or has had a remedy by way of court proceedings.
(2) The most common application of the Ombudsman's lack of jurisdiction where the subject matter of the complaint is subject to a right of appeal or court proceedings is in respect of judicial review. Many councils claim that the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction in certain cases due to the availability of judicial review. In these circumstances the Ombudsman can rely on section 26(6) of the Act which states that:-
'A Local Commissioner may conduct an investigation notwithstanding the existence of such a right or remedy if satisfied that in the particular circumstances it is not reasonable to expect the person affected to resort or have resorted to it.'