This case examines an employee’s right to an impartial grievance appeal. Mr Blackburn was employed by Aldi Stores Ltd as an LGV driver. He raised a grievance in relation to health and safety issues, lack of training and his mistreatment by Aldi’s deputy transport manager.
Aldi’s written grievance procedure required grievances to be handled by a section manager and any appeals were to be notified to the next level of management in writing. The Employee’s appeal against the rejection of certain of his grievances was considered and rejected by the same manager who found against him initially.
The employee claimed that Aldi had breached the implied term of trust and confidence by denying him a proper appeal. An Employment Tribunal rejected the employee’s claim for constructive unfair dismissal in part because he had not established that an express term of his contract had been breached. The Employee successfully appealed to the EAT.
The EAT held that:
1. The right to an impartial appeal in respect of a grievance is an important feature of the Acas Code and also the employer’s own procedure. It is a significant employment right and it was difficult to appreciate why an organisation of Aldi’s size was unable to provide an impartial hearing by a manager not previously involved;
2. Failure to adhere to a grievance procedure is capable of amounting to or contributing to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. Whether it does so in a particular case is a matter for the tribunal to assess;
3. Where a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence is alleged, the tribunal must ask whether the conduct complained of is of a nature that was calculated or likely to destroy the relationship of trust and confidence between the parties. Findings in fact should have made about the appeal hearing and their impact on that relationship.
The key message for employers is to ensure, where possible, that their grievance procedure allows an employee to appeal a grievance decision to an impartial person who has not been involved in the original decision. A failure to do this could amount to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence.
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