If you believe that you are being treated unfairly at work, for example you think you are being discriminated against by your employer or you don’t have appropriate working conditions, speak to a trade union representative. Together, you should try to raise the matter informally either with your line manager, or a more senior manager if that is not possible.
But if that does not work, or is not appropriate, you should follow your employer’s formal grievance procedure. This may involve writing to your employer explaining what makes you think you are being treated unfairly and your employer should organise a meeting to discuss your grievance. You have the right to be accompanied by a trade union official at the meeting.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome you may wish to ask for an appeal meeting. Again, you have the right to be accompanied by a trade union official.
Note: Many employers do not allow workers or self-employed workers to use grievance procedures. Talk to a trade union official for advice.
If you are an employee and your employer decides to take disciplinary action against you, you should seek advice from a trade union official on your case and consult the disciplinary procedure in your contract.
As a minimum, a disciplinary procedure should work as follows:
If you have been an employee for at least two years, your employer can only lawfully dismiss you if they can show that it was because of your ability to do your job. It is unlawful to be dismissed on the grounds of:
Your employer must follow a fair procedure for dismissal. If they fail to do so, you may bring a claim against your employer for unfair dismissal. Talk to a trade union official for further advice.
Discrimination and harassment at work
If you believe you are being bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work you should contact a trade union.
You have the right not to be discriminated against because of your race, gender, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy, maternity, age, or disability (known as the ‘protected characteristics’).
If you are disabled, you are entitled to extra support. An employer has a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to things like premises, equipment and working hours so that you are not put at a disadvantage when compared to non-disabled workers. This duty only applies if the employer knows you are disabled.
It is also unlawful to discriminate against you if you are on a fixed-term contract or you are a part-time worker.
Discrimination may include being paid less or being given worse terms and conditions than other workers or not being given a particular job.
If someone at work behaves towards you in a way that you don’t want, and their behaviour is hostile, intimidating, humiliating or offensive, including unwanted sexual attention, this is known as ‘harassment’. Harassment is unlawful if it relates to any of the protected characteristics.
It is also unlawful to victimise you for raising a complaint about discrimination or for helping a co-worker with a complaint.
You should write down all incidents of bullying, harassment or discrimination and keep any other related evidence, as you will need this if you have to make a formal complaint. A trade union can advise you how to make a formal complaint.
Taking a case to an employment tribunal
If you have a problem at work, a trade union should be able to help resolve it. They may also help you take your case to an employment tribunal.
Employment tribunals are a special kind of court that deal with employment issues. Most of the time the Tribunal won’t get your job back but they might tell your employer to pay you compensation.
It is essential to get advice on taking a case to the tribunal from your trade union or from the ACAS helpline on 0300 123 1100. You must notify ACAS before you can take a case to the employment tribunal. ’ They will offer a free ‘Early Conciliation’ service to advise you.
Most complaints must be made within three calendar months of the issue taking place.
You will have to pay a fee when you apply to the tribunal, and a further fee if your case cannot be settled before a hearing. If you are on a low wage and have limited savings, you can apply for your fees to be reduced. More information about claims and fees.
Further information (English version only)