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Statutory Grievance letters

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They're coming fast and furious...

Yesterday, the EAT published yet another decision on step 1 statutory grievance letters (judgment was given on 13th October, although the transcript was not released until yesterday).

As well as winning first prize in the 'easy case name to remember' competition, Commotion Ltd. v Rutty is another example of the relaxed view that tribunals are taking to whether a letter amounts to a statutory grievance letter under step 1 of the standard grievance procedure.

Mrs Rutty applied in writing for a variation to her working pattern under the flexible working provisions in s80F of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Her letter did not suggest it was to be regarded as a grievance.

Following the employer's unreasonable refusal of the request, in circumstances which the tribunal found was a breach of trust and confidence, she resigned and claimed constructive dismissal. She did not send a subsequent grievance letter.

The EAT (HHJ Burke presiding) upheld the employment tribunal's ruling that the original request to vary her contractual working pattern amounted to a step 1 grievance letter. The EAT relied upon regulation 2(2) of the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004, which provides that it is irrelevant whether the purported grievance letter deals with any other matter.

This decision, whilst demonstrating the relaxed view that tribunals are taking on this issue, is possibly open to being challenged at a future date on the basis that Mrs Rutty's true complaint - and reason for resigning - was not her original working pattern, but was the failure to deal properly with her request for flexible working contained within her letter. This is clearly a fact-sensitive area, which the employment tribunal (and EAT), in this case, considered fell on the side of the line where the letter complied with s32 Employment Act 2002.

The transcript is not yet on the EAT website, but it should be put up in the next week or so. Due to copyright constraints, I cannot attach a copy of the transcript to this Email.

[Thanks to Chris Carr of 36 Bedford Row (who represented Mrs Rutty) for sending me a copy of the transcript.]