Should an employer put a disciplinary process on hold to deal with a grievance?
This is a common question that arises for many employers particularly where it is believed that the employee has issued a grievance for tactical reasons and perhaps to delay the disciplinary process. A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case has held, no, the employer did not need to put a disciplinary process on hold to deal with a grievance.
The case (Jinadu v Docklands Buses) centred on a bus driver who was being disciplined for poor driving. During the disciplinary procedure the employee raised a grievance about some of the managers involved in the disciplinary process. The employer carried on with the disciplinary procedure and Ms Jinadu was dismissed. The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that Ms Jinadu was dismissed fairly. Ms Jinadu lodged an appeal and one of the reasons she sought to challenge the ET’s decision was on the basis that her employer should have paused the disciplinary proceedings and dealt with her grievance. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had to consider whether that was correct. Well, good news for employers, the EAT held that the employer was not obliged to halt the disciplinary procedure to deal with the grievance.
What are the learning points? Well this is good news for employers. However, we recommend that if an employee does bring a grievance during a disciplinary procedure you consider each case individually as there may still be some circumstances when it will be appropriate to pause the disciplinary procedure and deal with the grievance first. For example, if the grievance relates to a conflict of interest that the manager holding the disciplinary hearing is alleged to have or an allegation of discrimination is made. In those circumstances it may still be necessary to temporarily suspend the disciplinary procedure and deal with the grievance. However, sometimes the disciplinary and grievance procedure can be run concurrently, for example, if the grievance is that the employer has been selective in the evidence for the disciplinary.