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Suspending disciplinary proceedings for grievance

A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case suggests an employer can continue with disciplinary action without dealing with an employee’s grievance raised during the process.

The case involved a bus driver subject to disciplinary proceedings for reports of poor driving and repeated refusal to attend a driving assessment as instructed. The employee then sought to raise a grievance making allegations against a number of the managers involved in her disciplinary process. On dismissal the employee brought a claim for unfair dismissal on the basis the employer failed to suspend the disciplinary process in order to investigate her grievance.

The judge in the case was clear that each scenario will turn on its facts and employers should carefully consider the content of any grievances before deciding whether to continue disciplinary action in the absence of a grievance investigation. Employers are not under any obligation to automatically suspend disciplinary proceedings. But where the complaints made could impact on the likelihood of the employee retaining their job, a grievance investigation should first be undertaken before proceeding with any disciplinary procedure to reduce the risk of a claim for unfair dismissal.

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