Employment law update – nuisance grievances

I found this article relating to Employment Law which I thought may be of interest. So here it is for you

Yesterday I heard yet another non-grievance. Over the last few months an employee, who became unwell has caused mayhem in a small business by raising completely absurd grievances. His condition is very minor and does not constitute a disability.  Stephanie, the employer, has already taken a number of steps to ensure that Jon can work comfortably and safely. Jon has done nothing to help himself and has on several occasions worked in an unsafe manner. He was informally guided on this, for his own protection. From his response you would have thought he’d been made to stand in icy water for an hour.

Two weeks ago a four page letter was handed to Stephanie. It contained a torrent of Jon’s supposed wrongs (and was the document equivalent of a Violet Elizabeth Bott “thcream”). Stephanie grit her teeth and asked me to chair a grievance meeting.

When she wrote to Jon to set up the meeting, he recoiled and said he hadn’t meant to raise a grievance. Stephanie said – somewhat grimly, but quite correctly – that he clearly had some issues or he wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of writing such a long letter. As the reasonable employer, we have a duty to explore his concerns.  There was a further exchange about who could act as the companion.  Jon wanted his mum and we confined him to the statutory pool.  Jon went sick in response.  We wrote him a charming and helpful letter, demonstrating our commitment and support, but stuck to our guns. The meeting was rescheduled and eventually took place yesterday.


There was no more substance in Jon’s allegations than there a lion in dandelion fluff.

Unfortunately this type of nuisance grievance is very common. This type of grievance is often levied by poor quality employees as a smoke screen.  It wastes management time and creates a reverse culture if intimidation.  You are under a duty to properly explore grievances, but as this type of behaviour is so common now, it has become necessary to insert some caveats.

Have a few tactics ready to deal with this sort of nonsense.  Draft your grievance procedures so as to allow you to make an initial assessment before you allocate any significant resources to deal with it. For example, the procedure could state that you reserve the right not to pursue grievances that are frivolous or vexatious, or that merely repeat complaints that have already been made.  You could also require the employee to submit his evidence in advance of a meeting.

If you need help dealing with frivolous grievances and ‘screamers’, give us a call.  We’ve had plenty of experience of tackling these issues.

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Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in the practical application of employment law as well as providing employment law training and HR support services. For more information, visit our website at www.russellhrconsulting.co.uk or call a member of the team on 0845 644 8955.

Russell HR Consulting offers HR services to businesses nationwide, including Buckinghamshire (covering Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Banbury, Northampton, Towcester and surrounding areas), Nottinghamshire (covering Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Sheffield, Worksop and surrounding areas) and Hampshire (covering Aldershot, Basingstoke, Reading, Farnborough, Fareham, Portsmouth, Southampton and surrounding areas).


Kate Russell started Russell HR Consulting in 1998 and now divides her time between advising businesses of all sizes on HR issues, and delivering a range of highly practical employment law awareness training to line managers, including a range of public workshops. Her unique combination of legal background, direct line management experience and HR skills, enables Kate to present the stringent requirements of the law balanced against the realities of working life. She is a senior presenter for several companies and a popular public speaker. Kate completed an MA in strategic human resource management in 2004.
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