Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Increase in grievances

Schools may see an increase in staff taking out grievances against senior staff over the coming year. This is because, as a result of the new statutory grievance process, access to employment tribunal is effectively barred unless the staff member has been through the school's grievance process.

Therefore taking out a grievance both gives access to a tribunal and gives a staff member's union a chance to weigh up chances at tribunal.

This means it is more important than ever that proper grievance procedures are established, consulted on and kept under review. The time to discuss 'what if?' is before the procedures have to be used.

Governors who will hear the grievance need to be properly trained and briefed. The purpose of the hearing is to establish whether there is any justification for the complaint and help to bring things onto a better footing.

This may involve helping the parties to see how each other sees the issue and some procedures include an informal mediation process.

The hearing should be conducted in a way that ensures that facts are considered and that general denunciations and unsubstantiated accusations are not allowed to go unchecked. Governors should be trained to ask for evidence.

Some grievances arise when someone's performance is less than it should be and a manager is rightly confronting this. Pressure to perform and being held to account are not bullying unless accompanied by words or actions that are unreasonable and intended to humiliate.

In moving forward the view must be, 'How can we prevent this misapprehension occurring again?' This does not mean that the pressure has to be removed.

Although there may be practical reasons for grievances increasing, it can still be disconcerting to be at the receiving end. Members will want to reassure all involved that the purpose of the process is to settle the matter internally and, hopefully, resolve it for the future.

By Richard Bird, Legal Consultant

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