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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Friday 11 April I was sent an email by my line manager advising

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Friday 11 April I was sent an email by my line manager advising me a grievance had been raised against me by a staff member . Tuesday 15 April I had a meeting with my line manager and I had my prepared defence to the charges. My line manager went through the points and afterwards told me he needed to talk to me about something else and that it had nothing to do with grievance. He told me that I have upset some colleagues and that the writing is on the wall and my days are numbered here. He said he isn't sure if he wants me to have to leave but he is being given the impression by a number of staff that I cause frustration in my management style. He admits that a lot is to do with the fact that historically our department has been somewhat of an outsider to the company and a lot of people still don't understand or accept that we are part of the company and therefore they regard us as outsiders and do not want to communicate or co operate with us,but he also said I upset a lot of people in other departments running a huge event last year and that really my cards have been marked since then. Anyway he feels it is somewhat unfair and although he feels the grievance taken against me is largely unfounded these "faceless people " want him to take it seriously as a lever to get rid of me. He has offered me a compromise agreement to leave.This agreement he has negotiated with my union rep yesterday and the offer is £24000 tax free , but I have to accept in writing on Tuesday 22 at 9am and he will put in place the written offer . I currently earn £33000 which is a result of promotion 2 months ago from my old salary of £26000. I don't want to leave. The staff member with the grievance has had a number of complaints against her which should have resulted in disciplinary action for gross misconduct but my old boss had history with her and covered them up and so she has had her own way for last 3 years . During that time I pointed out to my boss that her behaviour to other staff was deplorable and unacceptable but he refused to do anything because of their previous relationship.When I took over in January I told her straight that I would not condone her abuse of the other staff . Anyway they are telling me that it suits them to find the grievance upheld as this way they can hold over my head that if I don.t accept the compromise agreement they will end up dismissing me and I will walk away with nothing. The company went through a change of CEO some 18months ago since then there have been a number of casualties and a number of compromise agreements reached for similar reasons that the new management don't like the way some of us work. It has been a toxic atmosphere and people wondering who was next to get the chop . My new boss only came 6 months ago when most of the " restructuring had been done" so he finds it hard to believe that I am being set up , although he has his doubts . I am severely stressed and even a recent occupational health report advised my boss that I was under severe stress related to work and that I felt I was not getting the support I needed to do my job stressfree. I was referred as I was injured at work and put on light duties due to the injury to a stomach hernia, which I was operated on in May 2013, as a result of an injury sustained at work in Dec 2012. I am a widow of 55 years of age with a mortgage and in this current climate will find it difficult to get a comparable job. I love my job. I have approx 30 staff who I work with on a daily basis and have an excellent relationship with and we have some many successes in last 2 years since I became their immediate boss. My staff turnover has been incredibly low . When I arrived the place was a mess , sales were low and staff turnover high and morale low. I hate to leave and see it all be thrown away but then again I cant afford to lose this compromise agreement if they can really push me out with nothing by trumping up charges and using " faceless people " to find fault with me. They have never spoken to my staff and asked what I am like to work for. They say it makes no difference . I feel between a rock and a hard place and my mind is mush ! Can you help please ?

Ben Jones : Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. What specific queries do you have about this so I can direct my advice more appropriately?

i would like to know where I stand legally ?

Ben Jones :

Hello again. I empathise with the position you have found yourself in and it is certainly not the first time I have come across a similar situation where employees are given a difficult decision of either accepting an agreed exit or facing formal action that could eventually result in their termination.


As far as the law stands, the initial act of offering you a compromise agreement is allowed and the employer is able to come ‘off the record’ and make you an offer ot leave, without you being able to bring it up in any future proceedings against them. So they cannot really be blamed for making this offer, but of course you are able to refuse it.


When it comes to your rights in relation to dismissal, if an employee has been continuously employed with their employer for at least 2 years they will be protected against unfair dismissal. This means that to fairly dismiss them their employer has to show that there was a potentially fair reason for dismissal and that a fair dismissal procedure was followed.


According to the Employment Rights Act 1996 there are five separate reasons that an employer could use to show that a dismissal was fair: conduct, capability, redundancy, illegality or some other substantial reason (SOSR). The employer will not only need to show that the dismissal was for one of those reasons, but also justify that it was appropriate and reasonable to use in the circumstances. In addition, they need to ensure that a fair dismissal procedure was followed and this would depend on which of the above reasons they used to dismiss.


So before the employer considers dismissing you, they must show there was a fair reason to do so and that it was reasonable in the circumstances. To do so they would really need to be looking at something that amounts to gross misconduct and to be honest I cannot see that applying here. There may be some friction between you and other employees but this is not gross misconduct. The employer should consider moving you for example or trying other ways of diffusing the situation before dismissal is contemplated and if they just proceed with a dismissal it could amount to an unfair dismissal.


If that was to happen, you would have a potential claim for unfair dismissal, however to make it you would need to go to the employment tribunal, pay the required fees and build a case against them. Once a claim is made you may find yourself in the same position you are in now – the employer making you an offer to drop the clam. If you then refuse to accept their offer you would need to proceed to a full hearing and hope you win, then claim compensation, which could or could not be better than what was originally offered. So there are risks involved as you can see.


So if the employer is adamant that they want you gone, you can use that in your favour to try and negotiate a better payout. You may love the job but I can promise you it may not be that good if the employer wants you gone and it may worsen things over time, making it unbearable sooner rather than later. So you need to consider what is best for you in the long term and that may well be an agreed exit but only once an appropriate level of compensation is reached. So use their determination to try and remove you, together with the fact their reasons for a potential are likely to be weak to negotiate an improved offer, which you could eventually accept. If you are adamant you do not want to leave now than you will have o face the potential consequences of the employer’s intentions to dismiss you anyway and then start a a legal fight.


thanks Ben . i have 2 days to think about it and as you say ultimately even if i love the job , if they want rid of me they are probably going to make my life unpleasant even if it is in subtle and insidious ways so think i will take your advice and see a local solitictor to try and negotiate harder on my behalf. I cant stop crying and my friends and family are asking me to go and get some advice from my GP as despite my employer being warned by the occupational health doctor to support me and reduce stress for me at work , my family feel that my employer has handled this in a way which has increased stress on me rather than reduce it , especially as it is well documented by other colleagues over the past 3 months how hard I have tried to find a way forward with this employee who has raised the grievance against me and therefore any complaint against me should have been dealt with in a far more sympathetic and informal way to minimise the stress and show support to me in what they recognise is a situation not of my making. thank you

Ben Jones :

Yes I agree and employers have a duty under health and safety regulations to ensure their employees are protected against such things like stress and whilst it is easier said than done as most jobs can be stressful, if there are obvious things they can do to at least reduce that they should be expected to do so. You may use their failure to do that as a further negotiating tool to try and get an improved offer


Appreciate your impartial advice as my head is so confused and just cannot think straight .The pressure has been relentless since this all kicked off just a week ago and i really am exhausted emotionally . Thanks

Ben Jones :

you are welcome, take the next couple of days to think about it, without putting too much pressure on yourself


can they force a decision so soon or can i ask for longer so i have time to see a solicitor locally ?

Ben Jones :

they can ask for an answer as soon as they want but once you have agreed to go ahead with it you are legally required to seek legal advice anyway so that won't be the end of the process


thanks Ben .

Ben Jones :

you are most welcome

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