When an employee raises a grievance during a disciplinary process employers are often tempted to assume that the concerns raised are not genuine or are intentionally spurious. This is a very risky approach and it is always important to consider and investigate any grievance raised by an employee even where it may at first appear to have no foundation.
Consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate to suspend the disciplinary process pending the outcome of the grievance. This could be appropriate in order to ensure that both processes are conducted fairly and independently. The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (“ACAS Code”) provides that where there is considerable overlap between the issues raised in the grievance and those of the disciplinary action it may be best to deal with both processes concurrently. If not, often the disciplinary action will need to put on hold pending the outcome of the grievance process. The grievance should then be dealt with at the earliest opportunity to avoid delaying the disciplinary process unnecessarily. It is important, however, to strike a balance between dealing with the grievance efficiently but also in a thorough manner.
A failure to deal with a grievance in accordance with the ACAS Code could lead to an Employment Tribunal adjusting any award against an employer by up to 25%.