Most employers respect the law. But if your employer does flout your rights you can do something about it – they are legal rights, after all. We give you the low down on what to do if your boss isn’t respecting the law.
An employer might prevent you from using a right or they might treat you less well for trying to use the right.
Even if you were mistaken about your right, (such as you asked for parental leave before you have worked for your employer for a year), you must not be treated badly for asking as long as you were acting in good faith.
Step one – grievance letter
If you have a disagreement with your employer, the first thing you should do is to write a grievance letter. This doesn’t have to be formal, just put in writing what you are upset about. Your employer should begin a procedure where they will meet with you to discuss your concerns.
If this doesn’t happen, or the outcome is not what you wanted, and you want to take things further, you must get advice quickly as the time limits in employment law are very short.
Step two – start tribunal proceedings
If you do take things further the next step is to start tribunal proceedings. You should get legal advice at this stage.
You can find legal advice using the Legal Aid Agency. If you cannot find free advice you might be able to pay using a clause in your insurance or to use a no-win, no-fee arrangement. The Law Society has information on paying for legal services.
Settling before the tribunal
More than half of cases are settled before the day of the tribunal hearing. That means the employee withdraws the case, sometimes because they have been made an offer by their employer. ACAS will act as a go-between to help you and your employer come to an agreement.
If your employer offers to settle with you they will insist you take legal advice to make the agreement binding.
If a case does go to tribunal it is less formal than a court but still has rules, such as giving evidence under oath. While tribunals will try and help people who don’t have a lawyer through the proceedings, unrepresented claimants are far less likely to win.
Unlike some other courts, tribunals rarely make the losing side pay the winning side’s costs. However, they will insist on payment where a claim is vexatious. A legal adviser will be able to advise on this.
Your job once you’ve started proceedings
Although your employer must not treat you less well for beginning tribunal proceedings, in the real world very few people are able to keep working for their employer while bringing a claim against them. You need to think carefully about what you want to do and why you want to do it.
While taking an employer to tribunal can be stressful, no-one else is going to assert your rights for you. If you take advice before taking it further, you will have an idea about your chances, and if it is worth the effort.