Failure to investigate a grievance amounted to harassment!

According to an employment tribunal, an NHS sonographer who was shouted at by a senior midwife while performing a scan on the midwife’s daughter-in-law was harassed when an investigator tried to “shut down” her complaint. The complaint was “swept under the rug” during an informal process to protect the senior team member despite the sonographer repeatedly and clearly stating that she wanted to make a formal complaint. In addition, the tribunal found the investigation to be “woefully inadequate” and the decision “biased”.

The tribunal heard that the sonographer was 33 and the senior clinical specialist midwife had been employed for 34 years. The patient she was scanning was the daughter-in-law of the senior employee, who was not working that day but was at the scan to support her daughter-in-law.

There was a mix up over the appointment time and the employee allocated to conduct the scan which made the senior employee angry, causing her to be “direct and rude” – so much so that the sonographer considered calling for security.

She made an informal complaint which was handled poorly and “closed” after a delay. The tribunal said the employer wanted to “shut down” the complaint with an informal outcome to protect the senior employee. No one took ownership to explain the process, to ensure that the complaints were formally investigated and that a conclusion was reached. This resulted in unwanted conduct towards the employee and the tribunal found that the failure to act on her complaint “violated her dignity and created an intimidating and offensive environment”.

The employee was awarded £4,328.99.  Had this grievance been correctly managed it is unlikely that the case would have been brought to tribunal – another example of the importance of properly managing grievance investigations!

Increase in number of successful employment tribunal cases

The Government has released the latest quarterly Employment Tribunal statistics, covering the period from July to September 2022, which compares employment tribunal statistics to the results for the same quarter in 2020/21. These records show that successful unfair dismissal claims have risen by 51% from the previous year: this is only the second time since 2010/11 that the number of unfair dismissal claims receiving compensation has increased.

Compensation figures are only available for unfair dismissal and discrimination claims during this period. These figures, shown below, are an important reminder for employers of the need to follow fair and reasonable processes when dealing with employees:

  • Maximum unfair dismissal award: £165,000.
  • Average unfair dismissal award: £14,000.
  • Maximum discrimination award: £228,000 for race discrimination.
  • The number of costs awards increased compared to the two previous years, at an average (mean) of £8818.

If you are facing an employment tribunal, 121 HR Solutions can help. Contact us on 0800 9995 121

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