The EAT has provided useful guidance on what is required to comply with the modified grievance procedure. An employee must submit a formal grievance to their employer before he/she can bring a tribunal claim. The modified grievance procedure allows employees to set out in writing the basis of their grievance rather than having a face to face meeting.
The employee left her employment and subsequently wrote to the employee alleging that she had been treated in an 'oppressive, unfair and degrading manner', amongst other things, and that the employer had set out on a course of conduct that was likely to, and did in fact, destroy mutual trust and confidence. As a result, the employee stated that she had been constructively dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of her disability.
The employer responded in writing with a series of questions inviting the employee to explain the basis of her allegations and to identify the 'course of conduct'. The employee did not reply. Nevertheless, the employer still responded to the grievance, highlighting that its investigations had been restricted by the lack of information it had been provided with.
The employee went on to bring a claim for constructive dismissal and disability discrimination. The EAT reversed the tribunal's finding that she had complied with the modified grievance procedures for several reasons. Firstly, it was noted that the purpose of the modified procedure was to give the employer enough information about the allegations made so that it can usefully respond and, ideally, avoid litigation.
Secondly the EAT held that deficiencies in the contents of a grievance could not be remedied be seeking an order for further information from the tribunal, or by seeking a reduction in the compensatory award.
Finally, the EAT held that it is not possible to look outside a grievance letter to find the basis of the complaint. The essential questions that must be answered in a grievance letter are who, what, where, when and why. The EAT found that this information was missing from the grievance letter, which only characterised the acts, conduct and events complained of, but did not provide any specific details.
Clyde Valley Housing Association Ltd v MacAulay