Law guide: Workplace

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Workplace disputes

Workplace disputes

If something goes wrong at work, you need to know the proper channels to go through to achieve the result you are looking for. Use this section of the law guide to find out different ways to settle workplace disputes and what to do if you have been dismissed from work unfairly. Below you will find a summary of the topics covered in this section and what this site can offer you. If you would like more information, then click on the appropriate link in the left-hand side of the page.

Dispute resolution

In this section, you can find out what options are available to you when you have a dispute at work. The following options are listed and described briefly below.

Grievance procedures

A grievance procedure lets you make complaints to, or raise problems with, your employer. There are steps you need to take if you have a complaint and things to consider when following a grievance procedure. Find out what these steps are.

Disciplinary procedures

Employers use disciplinary procedures to tell employees that their performance or conduct isn't up to the expected standard and to encourage improvement. A disciplinary procedure is sometimes the best way for your employer to tell you when something is wrong. It allows them to explain clearly what improvement is needed and should give you an opportunity to put your side of the situation. Find out what steps must be included in your employer's disciplinary procedures and where you should go if your employer has brought disciplinary procedures against you and you feel you need help.

Mediation, conciliation, and arbitration

You do not have to go directly to court or even to an Employment Tribunal (or Industrial Tribunal in Northern Ireland) to settle any disagreements you have with your employer. There are several ways to sort out problems in the workplace without going to court or a tribunal, including mediation, conciliation and arbitration. Find out what each of these services can do for you and how to use them.

Counselling at work

If your work is suffering for personal reasons, you may need counselling to put things right. Counselling can be an informal way of sorting out problems before they become disciplinary issues. Your employer might provide a counselling service, but there's no law to say they must.

Although you don't have to agree to counselling if your employer offers it, consider whether this would be better than facing disciplinary issues at work. Find out about the types of counselling available in this section and how counselling works as part of the disciplinary process.

Protection of whistleblowers

You're protected under the law if you reveal to those in positions of authority –"blow the whistle on"- suspected malpractice at work. Find out about the types of disclosure you can make, who to make them to and what to do if you suffer for whistleblowing.

Employment Tribunals /Industrial Tribunals

An Employment Tribunal (in England, Wales and Scotland) or Industrial Tribunal (in Northern Ireland) deals with legal disputes to do with work. They're less formal than some other courts, but you still give evidence on oath, and if you lie you can be accused of perjury. If you make a claim in a tribunal, there are procedures that need to be followed and you should understand what happens when your claim is heard. Find out what these procedures are and what you need to follow in a tribunal.

Unfair dismissal

There are various reasons why your employer might dismiss you. There are fair and unfair reasons for dismissal and you have a right to have a written statement explaining why you have been dismissed. Regardless of the reason for your dismissal, your employer must also act fairly in the procedure they follow. If they don't, the dismissal may be unfair. Use this section to find out when your employer can legally dismiss you, when they cannot, and what to do if you think you have been the victim of an unfair dismissal.


If you're going to be made redundant, you should be treated fairly by your employer. There are certain steps they would be expected to follow. You may also be entitled to a redundancy payment. Find out what your rights are if you have been made redundant and where to go if you need any advice.

Temporary lay-off

In certain circumstances, you might be temporarily laid off from your job. This article explains what this means and how you'll be paid when you're laid off. It also looks at your rights and your employer's responsibilities.

Resigning from a job

Handing in your resignation, either verbally or in writing, is a clear statement by you to your employer that you're going to leave your job. Threatening to leave, or saying you're looking for another job, isn't the same as formally resigning, but saying "I quit!" in the heat of an argument with your employer may be taken as a proper resignation so be cautious in what you say. If you do resign in the heat of the moment but didn't mean it, tell your employer quickly. You can always choose to leave your job by resigning. This article explains what to do when you resign, the things you should think about before resigning, and your rights and obligations to your employer.

Constructive dismissal

If you're forced to quit your job because of the way you're treated, it's called constructive dismissal. Although there's no actual dismissal by the employer, the end result is the same as if you'd been sacked. It's often very hard to prove that your employer's behaviour was so bad as to make you leave, so you should get legal advice before leaving your job. Find out what to do if you feel that you must leave your job for this reason.

If your employer becomes insolvent

Insolvency is where an employer has no money to pay the people they owe in full and they have to make special arrangements to try to meet these debts. Usually an insolvency practitioner or official receiver is appointed to deal with the insolvency. If your employer becomes insolvent you have a number of options open to you. This article gives details of what to do if you're owed money by an insolvent employer and how insolvency affects your employment status.

When your business is transferred or taken over

If the business you work for changes from one owner to another, you need to know how it will affect you. Find out what it means for you if there's a transfer of the business to a new employer, and your employer's responsibilities to consult you.

Notice and notice pay

When you finish a job you should normally give or be given notice. Find out how much notice you or your employer must give, the rules on what payment you should receive and your other rights and responsibilities.

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