Q: Do I have to deal with a grievance raised by an ex-employee?
A: Most employers are familiar with their obligation to respond to a grievance raised by a current member of staff. However, employers may be less familiar with their responsibilities when a former employee submits a grievance.
Although the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures does not expressly refer to former employees, the legislation does apply to these individuals. Therefore, while it may be tempting to ignore grievances raised by ex-employees, it is best practice to follow your usual grievance procedure in this scenario.
Firstly, you should make contact with the employee and inform them you have received their grievance and are committed to looking into the matter. You may find it necessary to arrange a meeting, either in person or over the telephone to gather more information. However, this is not essential given that they are no longer under your employment.
Investigating the grievance will likely involve collecting evidence and taking relevant witness statements. It is essential that the individual in charge of the grievance procedure is impartial and not implicated by the employee’s claims in any way. Once the investigation is complete, you will need to write to the employee and confirm the outcome.
Although you may feel that the individual’s grievance is simply an attempt to lash out and waste valuable business time, you should consider the situation. Remember that former staff still have three months from the date of any alleged incident to raise a claim to an employment tribunal. Therefore, displaying an eagerness to address their grievance could prevent any unnecessary tribunal proceedings in certain circumstances.
Looking into the employee’s grievance may also reveal some underlying issues about your organisation. If you do find that certain unlawful behaviour had been ongoing, then this must be addressed in line with your standard disciplinary procedure. Taking the appropriate action will help prevent this from occurring again and help to create a more harmonious working environment.
Ultimately, it is better to treat a grievance from an ex-employee as if they were still in your employment. After all, not only is there potentially more to be gained for your organisation by treating the grievance seriously, but dismissing the grievance outright will only increase the likelihood of tribunal proceedings.
Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula