We spend vast swathes of our life at work. In fact sometimes we see our work colleagues more than we see our own family.
But bullying, discrimination or disputes can make going to work the last thing you want to do.
Sometimes issues can be resolved by talking and tackling the problem head on. But in other cases, the dispute ends up at an employment tribunal.
Until recently, however, taking a claim to an employment tribunal meant paying substantial fees up front – a major hindrance to many seeking justice for workplace troubles.
Now a court has ruled that the fees are unfair and should be scrapped. It means the door is about to open to more workers pursuing claims of unfair dismissal and discrimination.
Having trouble at work? Here’s what you can do.
Know your rights
You must have two years’ qualifying employment in your job before you can claim unfair dismissal. It’s a clause that can be misused, warns Nikki Sharpe, who specialises in employment and discrimination law here at Best “Some employers can use that to their advantage, and dismiss people just before their two years is up,” she warns.
“If it’s a case of sex discrimination, race, religion or any other Equality Act issues, you can bring a claim, but some employers are very savvy.”
You may fear the odds are stacked against you, but you could still pursue a claim: just make sure to investigate your rights.
Tackle the bullies
Bullying and harassment can take many forms – it could be face to face or in emails behind your back.
Bullying isn’t against the law, but harassment is. It can take the form of unwanted sexual advances, racial or religious abuse, harassment over sexual orientation, age, gender or disability.
Employers are responsible for stopping bullying and harassment, and are liable for any harassment suffered by their employees. So it’s in their interests to have robust policies in place and to take your complaint seriously.
If you feel you’ve been subjected to workplace bullying or harassment, check your employers’ anti-bullying policy and make a complaint to your manager, HR representative or trade union representative.
Blow the whistle
You might be aware of serious health and safety breaches at work, or know of bad practices or incidents that put others at risk.
Whistle-blowers are protected by law, so they should not be treated unfairly or lose their job because they ‘blow the whistle’.
While there’s protection for genuine whistle-blowers, personal grievances over issues like bullying or harassment should be raised under your workplace grievance policy.
Gather your evidence
Keep a note of witnesses, what happened, where and when. Note down how the incident made you feel, if you felt stressed or upset. Keep it safe.
You might not want to go to your GP but it does help to have documented proof of the stress you’ve been put under.
Don’t forget to keep your cool and not get involved in workplace arguments or squabbles.
If you’re summoned to a disciplinary hearing to discuss something you’re accused of having done wrong, make sure you have someone with you – a fellow worker or union representative for example.
Sometimes when both sides agree the employment relationship has collapsed, a ‘protected settlement’ discussion takes place. That’s when an agreement is reached for the employee to leave the company. Make sure you have a solicitor with you for any protected settlement talks.