Contractors' Questions How to deal with a grievance?

Contractor's Question: I contract as a Project Manager at a Local Authority. A member of my Project Team has threatened to file a grievance against me for alleged bullying. The PMO, Head of Service and Director all feel that the case is unfounded and that her behaviour in general has not been appropriate. Similarly, the permanent Project Manager who is taking over my work cannot see the justification for the case. Largely I feel that the case is retaliation to an internal performance management process finding her wanting.

Any advice on how to deal with this issue, and the complainant, as a contractor would be appreciated. Should I be looking at purchasing insurance to cover potential litigation?

Expert's Answer: The most important aspect in your scenario is making sure all procedures are carried out in line with the organisation's policies. The new ACAS code is intended to help employers and employees resolve grievances effectively in the workplace. It is important that you deal with a grievance effectively. By doing so, you can stay off any tribunal claims by enabling the issue to be resolved internally. Obviously here you have a serious issue. An employee has made an allegation of bullying.

Firstly, you will need to call a meeting to allow the employee to explain her grievance and how she thinks it should be resolved. All the personnel you cite should be present if the matter needs further investigation. You should then consider adjourning the meeting and resuming it once the investigation has concluded. After the investigation or meeting you should write to the employee setting out your findings and the steps you intend to take to resolve the grievance.

In terms of insurance for contractors, you can obtain legal cover to protect your company for claims in civil matters, including employment tribunals. However the broker will need to know what policies and procedures you have in place before they offer you a reasonable premium.

The expert was Jody Tsigarides, of the internet and e-commerce team at Lawdit Solicitors.

Thursday 11th Mar 2010