It’s rarely easy to tackle problems at work, especially if you feel that you are being treated unfairly or discriminated against.
But there are protections in place to help you with all sorts of employment problems ranging from being unfairly picked for redundancy or being denied flexible working for childcare to being discriminated against because you're pregnant.
If you've had a problem at work you may have rights under employment law. Here are the steps you can take if you’ve got a problem at work from the experts at Citizens Advice:
Talk to your boss
The first step to resolving a problem at work should always be speaking to your employer or sending them a letter to open a dialogue. If you’re not sure where to begin, Citizens Advice has a template grievance letter on their website. If you’re a member of a trade union they may also be able to give you advice and help.
“If the issue isn’t resolved, your employer should have a formal procedure for raising a grievance. The manager who deals with your grievance should be impartial and not involved with what’s happened so far. If still not resolved, you might want to take your complaint to an employment tribunal,” says Matthew Bradbury, senior employment expert at Citizens Advice.
Don’t miss the three-month deadline to start Acas early conciliation
Acas is a government-funded body that helps resolve workplace disputes.
“Before you can start a tribunal claim the law requires you to start Acas early conciliation. You must do this in three months minus one day from the date when the problem you are complaining about happened (you have six months minus a day for a claim about a redundancy payment or an equal pay claim),” says Bradbury.
Acas will try to help you reach an agreement with your employer before you make a tribunal claim.
This process can last up to six weeks. It may end up in in a “settlement” of your claim, where your employer agrees to resolve your problem and pay you any money you’re owed.
If this doesn’t work you’ll have around a month to escalate to an employment tribunal
If you are unable to find an agreement through early conciliation, you will receive an early conciliation certificate from Acas.
You will then have at least one month to take your case to an employment tribunal.
It is very important you don’t miss the deadline, as you could lose your right to go to an employment tribunal.
If you decide to go ahead, you’ll have to fill in an ET1 form online to submit your claim.
You don’t need a solicitor, but many people find it useful to get some advice before they take action as tribunal claims can involve complicated legal questions.
You can’t get legal aid for employment tribunal cases unless your case includes a discrimination claim, even if you’re on a low income. However, you don’t need to pay a fee to make an employment tribunal claim.
The tribunal will make a decision
You will then have to wait for a hearing date. The average wait time for a case on unfair dismissal or discrimination to be decided is nine months, though this can vary depending on the type of case.
“Acas will get involved again to see if there’s another chance to settle your claim,” says Bradbury.
“The tribunal will contact you to tell you what you need to do to start preparing for the hearing.
“At the hearing, both you and your employer will put your sides forward, this could include providing evidence, witness statements and cross-examination.
“In most cases your claim will be decided by a judge but in discrimination claims or more complex claims there will be two panel members helping the judge to reach a decision.”
You don’t automatically have to pay your employer’s legal costs if you lose the case. This happens in less than 1% of cases. “If a solicitor representing your employer tells you they are going to ask the tribunal to make you pay their legal costs, you should get advice quickly,” say the experts at Citizens Advice.
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