The following four recent EAT decisions give some guidance as to the level of detail required in a grievance letter in order to comply with the statutory procedures:

  • In Suffolk Mental Heath v Hirst, the EAT has held that the grievance will be valid if it indicates that it relates to an equal pay claim. This contrasts with the view of a different EAT in the case of Cannop and Others v Highland Council that comparators should be specified in grievances relating to equal pay. However, it does accord with the Court of Session's view in the same case that the test should be whether the grievance underlying the tribunal claim was essentially the same as the grievance communicated earlier.
  • In European Credit Management v Hosso, the EAT confirmed that a grievance about remuneration must specify all of the elements of the remuneration package that the employee wishes to complain about. A grievance mentioning only basic pay and share options, therefore, did not relate to the employee's subsequent complaint about their bonus and the tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.
  • In Weare v HBOS, the EAT has held that it is not necessary for an employee to lodge separate grievances relating to each stage of the disciplinary process. A disciplinary procedure is a continuing process and so an employee's grievance about the instigation of the procedure will cover any actions taken throughout the process.
  • In Step in Time v Fox and Hunter, the EAT held that it is not necessary for the employee's step 1 grievance letter to refer to the fact that they are contemplating resigning in response to the employer's conduct in order for that employee to be able to bring a claim of constructive dismissal. The resignation is not a part of the grievance, although it may demonstrate how significant he considers the grievance to be.  

Impact on employers

Employers should not take an overly technical approach to grievances received from employees and are well advised to initiate further discussion to find out more about a complaint where they do not feel that they have sufficient information. Although the statutory procedures will be repealed in April 2009, these will still be relevant considerations under the new ACAS Code.