It is probably fair to say that for most people, working life will not involve any disputes – there may be annoyances, but these are most likely to be resolved swiftly and without any disciplinary action. However, for some people, there will be disputes. They can occur over a number of things, such as salary, too many hours, or tasks being assigned that are not part of a job description. When these disputes occur it can be difficult to know how to proceed, but thankfully there are protocols in place to help make it easier.
Remember that steps for disputes depend on your employment status – contract or temporary workers do not have the same rights as permanent workers, so you would firstly need to work out if you really are in a dispute or not. If you are, the first step is of course to try to reach an agreement with your boss.
Usually a boss would be keen to resolve a problem, because they can affect work and slow productivity, which in turn can put the manager’s job on the line. Sometimes disputes are purely misunderstandings, or something has not been clarified properly – for instance, it could be that you have been given extra work outside of your job description because you are being eyed up for promotion, or that someone else is ill. If talking to your boss does not solve the problem though, then approaching your line manager or Human Resources would represent the next step.
If, however, this does not work and your problem is still there, then it may be worth approaching bodies like ACAS. Standing for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, ACAS is the government’s official mediator and it exists to “improve organisations and working life through better employment relations.” The organisation offers mediation to the parties involved in a dispute to help reconciliation, but their website also has a wealth of information to help people recognise their rights and what the next steps should be.
ACAS explains on their site that employees have the right to not be unfairly dismissed, and any dismissal is considered automatically unfair if the employee is exercising his or her rights relating to pregnancy, family (including parental and paternity leave), representation, union membership grounds, discrimination, and pay and working hours. If, therefore, you are in conflict because you want paternity leave for child adoption and your boss is refusing, it may be worth explaining to them that you have the right to the leave, otherwise you will contact a third-party organisation like ACAS for mediation.
If all of this fails and your case is one that protects you by law, such as discrimination, then the next step would be to apply for legal help. If finances are an issue for this, legal support can often be purchased with home and car insurance policies. This is a particularly attractive idea when considering that the government has new plans, to be enacted next year, that make employees pay a fee to make a claim against their employer. The estimated cost is roughly £1,500, which is likely to be outside the budget of many people.
With purchased legal support though, you can get the advice you deserve without having to rack up a debt. If your employer is taking a gamble that you can be dismissed unfairly because of the cost of hiring legal representation, one way to nip the conflict in the bud is to simply explain that you have purchased legal support with your insurance, and you will be seeking its advice immediately. If your employer is acting unfairly, this alone may be enough to avoid you losing your job.