This is a common question which will often arise as employees will often,
for example, raise a grievance at the same time they are subject to a
disciplinary process or put at risk of redundancy, perhaps alleging that the
manager concerned is not acting in a fair manner.  Indeed, the cynic might
say that the employee is deliberately trying to ‘buy themselves time’.

Where an employee raises a grievance, you cannot ignore it just because you
have other procedures in train.  For example, the employee is accused of
gross misconduct and the investigation to date suggests that the employee
may well be guilty of such gross misconduct i.e. there is a fairly high
chance that once it reaches a disciplinary hearing, the decision maker may
choose to dismiss this employee.  If they have raised a grievance during the
process you can’t just ignore it because you think that the employee is
shortly going to be leaving – you still need to acknowledge the grievance
and do one of two things:  Either appoint somebody to investigate that
grievance where the contents of the grievance are unrelated to the
disciplinary matter, or acknowledge that the complaints have been raised but
point out that the content of the complaints are part and parcel of the
disciplinary process and that the appropriate forum for dealing with that
will either be in a disciplinary hearing once it is reached, or as part of
the appeals process under the disciplinary procedure. If you just leave it,
you might give the employee grounds to complain and it embarrasses the
organisation if the events later come under scrutiny.

Likewise, if you are in the middle of a redundancy exercise or even if you
have received a grievance from an employee but know that you are about to
commence a redundancy exercise by putting them at risk, perhaps along with
other people, again you can’t just ignore the grievance.  You do need to be
seen to appoint somebody to investigate it and to set the grievance train in
motion.  However, you may well find that your redundancy procedure will
overtake the grievance one and if the person is selected their employment
could come to an end before the grievance has been fully resolved.

You will need to take care in both these scenarios to consider the extent to
which the contents of the grievance impinges on who can reasonably be
involved in making the disciplinary decision and/or the redundancy decision.
If the grievance is about entirely unrelated matters and an entirely
different employee then the matter will be clear.  If doubt is being cast
over a manager it might be more prudent to remove them from the process and
involve somebody else instead, for example, as decision maker in a
disciplinary hearing or to bring in a supplementary person to ensure there
is no bias being exercised, for example in a redundancy exercise having more
than one person making the decision.

A recent Tribunal case has dealt with these issues.  In the case, the
employee was employed as a bus driver by Docklands Buses and she was subject
to disciplinary proceedings in relation to her poor driving.  During those
proceedings she made allegations about some of the managers involved but the
employer continued with the disciplinary proceedings and ultimately
dismissed her.

As you might imagine, she appealed the finding of the Tribunal, trying to
argue that her dismissal had been unfair because the employer had not put
the disciplinary process on hold until her allegations had been dealt with
as a grievance.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal emphatically rejected this
proposition.  It is therefore useful authority that there is no requirement
on you to postpone disciplinary proceedings where a grievance has been

Of course, any situation is going to depend on its own facts and there will
be circumstances where it will be prudent to pause the process that you are
running in order to address the grievance.  I like to apply a test of ‘how
it is going to look in a year’s time?’  If it going to look as though you
were rushing things through and not taking the grievance seriously, it will
be worth considering whether or not you should address the issues first.

If you’ve got any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me