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Modified Grievance Procedure

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Yet another case concerning the statutory dispute procedures which, as pointed out by Lady Smith in the Scottish EAT in Clyde Valley Housing Association v McAulay, "have provoked a sea of negative comment of Pacific rather than Caspian proportions".

Ms MacAuley resigned from the Clyde Housing Association, claiming constructive dismissal and disability discrimination. It was agreed that the modified statutory procedure, set out in Employment Act 2002, applied, and so Ms MacAuley's solicitors wrote to Clyde setting out a number of allegations. Clyde sought clarification of exactly what acts and conduct of theirs it was that Ms MacAuley was referring to. These were not forthcoming, so they wrote to say that, as a result, they had been unable to address the grievance. An employment tribunal held that the grievance procedures had been complied with, and Ms MacAuley won her case. Clyde appealed.

The EAT confirmed that the tribunal could not entertain the claim unless Ms MacAuley had sent something in writing to Clyde which set out her grievance and the basis for it. This is a threshold condition. The written statement must "contain the answers to the essential questions that one would expect to arise in a grievance, namely: 'Who? What? Where? When? Why?'" The fact that further details could come to light during litigation, or indeed that there could be financial penalties for failing to fully comply with the procedures, does not remove the tribunal's need to consider that written statement alone and be satisfied that it meets these certain minimum requirements. The letter in this case simply made assertions, and did not meet the basic requirements. The appeal was allowed and the tribunal's order set aside - so the claim was dismissed.