Grievance, Discipline and Dismissal (Byte Size)
In this course, we are concerned with dissatisfaction. Grievance is a solemn word that we rarely use in general conversation, but has a specific meaning when applied in the workplace. It describes a feeling of dissatisfaction by an individual employee which is sufficiently strong for that person to decide to "take on" the employer, by formally expressing that dissatisfaction and seeking redress. In this action, the employee has the support of law. There has been a long-standing requirement for employers to inform employees about the arrangements for resolving a grievance, but a judgement in 1995 (W A Goold (Pearmak) Ltd v. McConnell and anon, 1995, IRLR 516) declared that employers had a duty to provide such a procedure.
Discipline is a word closely related to punishment, but it again has a specific meaning in the workplace, as being the opposite of grievance. If managers, representing the employer, are not satisfied with the work performance of an employee, they have recourse to disciplinary processes and procedures. These are not specifically directed at punishment and should be based on mutual trust and confidence that they are a means of resolving a problem rather than legitimising punishment.
Dismissal is a more straightforward word, meaning the point at which the employer terminates the contract of employment. There is considerable law surrounding this act, but in this unit we deal only with the broad principles. The employee is not necessarily passive in dismissal. There is provision, as was shown in the Holness case, for the employee to resign and then claim constructive dismissal (and compensation) because of unreasonable behaviour by the employer.