Many of you will, at some point in your careers, have a falling out with your employer. It may be that your boss picks on you, ignores you, or just generally makes things difficult for you. You might be bullied or harassed by a manager. You could, for instance, be given unfair performance ratings, or be overlooked for promotion. In such situations, the trust often goes and you just want out. But what steps should you be taking?
RAISING A GRIEVANCE
Depending on the circumstances, you could raise a complaint and try and resolve things that way. You ought to check the company’s grievance procedure, which should set out the process that needs to be followed. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to make an informal complaint before lodging a formal grievance.
Raising matters internally is important because your employer will usually have an obligation to investigate and respond. Also, if you later decide to pursue a claim against your employer, compensation could be reduced if you didn’t raise a grievance at the outset.
REACHING A DEAL
There may be an opportunity to have an off-the-record chat and thrash out a deal. Your employer might agree to pay you some extra cash on condition that you leave quietly and don’t bring any claims. The parties would then normally enter into a settlement agreement.
It is a requirement that you obtain legal advice before entering into such an agreement. This allows you to assess your options carefully, and obtain information. For example, you need to be aware that the first £30,000 of a termination or compensation payment can often be paid tax-free. The government is currently consulting on changes to the tax treatment of termination payments, though.
If you’re worried that your employer might give you a bad reference, one could be agreed and annexed to the settlement agreement. Your employer would then be obliged to provide that specific reference (known as an agreed reference) to prospective employers.
You may have a restriction in your employment contract preventing you from working for a competitor for a period of time when you leave. As part of the negotiation, this restriction could, possibly, be waived.
BRINGING A CLAIM
If you feel that your employer has treated you badly, you could consider bringing a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.
To bring a claim, you must have resigned quickly because of a fundamental breach of contract by your employer. This could be a breach of trust, or another major breach.
Such claims are not easy to prove, so obtain legal advice before resigning. Advice should be taken at the earliest opportunity. You would normally need to have had at least two years’ service. You would also be required to follow the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service’s (Acas) early conciliation process prior to lodging the claim. And any claim must be filed with the requisite fee at the employment tribunal within three months (less a day) from when the employment ends – and that’s subject to the rules for extending time for early conciliation. The maximum compensation award is the lower of 52 weeks’ pay or £78,335.
There may be other claims which have time limitations to consider too. The key thing is to assess your options, have a strategy, and don’t do anything rash.