Grievances & settlement agreement: top tips for using a grievance to negotiate a settlement agreement

In this article Chris Hadrill, the partner in the employment department at Redmans, examines how submitting a grievance can assist an employee in negotiating settlement agreement terms

What is a grievance?

A grievance is, essentially, an explanation of complaints that you have (in this context, in the workplace). A grievance can be formal or informal, submitted in writing or verbally.

An ‘informal’ grievance is normally (although not always) verbal in nature, in that you will generally be explaining your complaints ‘informally’ to your line manager (or appropriate third party) with the understanding that these complaints will be acted upon.

A ‘formal’ grievance will generally (although, again, not always) be a last resort for an unhappy employee, as it will generally mean that the employee will submit in writing a formal document detailing what they are complaining about and how they want their complaints resolved.

How can submitting a grievance help you?

Submitting a grievance, whether formally, or informally, can achieve the following results:

  1. It will serve as a contemporaneous statement of exactly what problems you have been experiencing – this can be helpful not only in the context of resolving your grievance but can also assist in negotiating settlement agreement terms or as evidence in a claim to the Employment Tribunal
  2. It will notify your employer that you have specific complaints about aspects of the workplace, which can often be helpful for employers (as it will allow them to resolve workplace conflicts and make the workplace a more welcoming and productive environment)
  3. It can help to leverage a settlement agreement

What impact can submitting a grievance have on your ability to negotiate a settlement agreement?

Submitting a formal written grievance can often have a positive impact on your ability to negotiate settlement agreement terms for the following reasons:

  1. It will lay down a version of events that you can rely on when arguing about your potential claims
  2. It will signal to your employer that you are serious about pursuing your complaints, whether internally through your employer’s grievance process or, alternatively, externally through an Employment Tribunal claim
  3. It will give your employer (or their legal team) the ability to analyse what potential Employment Tribunal claims you may have and the risk that they fact in you bringing such claims
  4. Dealing with a formal grievance will often be viewed as an extra administrative burden by employers, and avoiding this burden is often a factor for employers when deciding to offer settlement agreements – this normally isn’t the sole factor but often plays a part (whether minor or major)

Top tips for using a grievance to negotiate a settlement agreement

If you’re considering submitting a grievance to your employer in order to assist you in negotiating settlement agreement terms then

  1. Consider also submitting a ‘subject access request’ with your grievance so that you can force your employer to give you information which could be helpful to you in pursuing your grievance process, negotiating settlement agreement terms, and/or pursuing an Employment Tribunal claim, as relevant
  2. Be clear and concise when drafting the grievance and concentrate on relevant points – the clearer your grievance is, generally the more likely it will be taken seriously
  3. When you have submitted your grievance, approach your employer to propose settlement agreement terms – taking a pro-active approach to negotiating a settlement agreement can often be helpful