Claim brought by zero-hours contract worker

Sexual harassment claim reveals vulnerability of zero-hours contract workers

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The vulnerability of many workers on zero-hours contracts has been highlighted by a recent sexual harassment claim brought to an employment tribunal.

A worker who was employed on a zero-hours contract was awarded £19,500 after she feared reporting allegations of sexual harassment by her line manager in case she lost work as a result.

Despite eventually reporting instances of sexual harassment to another line manager informally, no action was taken by the manager. A formal grievance was only raised after intervention from the claimantâ??s mother.

Yet after a disciplinary process which lasted nearly a year, no further action was taken against her line manager by the employer.

Did the workerâ??s zero-hours contract affect their actions?

The employment tribunal had no doubt that the zero-hours contract worker believed she was reliant on the line manager to give her shifts and that this was the cause of her reluctance to raise a formal complaint.

As a result of this, it upheld the sexual harassment claim and awarded the claimant £19,500 for injury to feelings. In addition, the tribunal was highly critical of the employerâ??s investigation.

What can employers learn from this case?

The case provides some clear lessons that all employers can take on board. The employment tribunal was particularly damning of three areas of the employerâ??s investigation.

  • The failure to follow up on the initial informal complaint made by the worker
  • The lack of clear action against the alleged offender
  • The lengthy delay in completing the investigation

This highlights the importance for all employers to have a clear grievance procedure in place and to make this available to all employees. This will provide a clear framework against which to deal with complaints.

By ensuring that you can show that you have dealt with any grievances in a consistent and legally compliant manner, you can avoid potentially costly employment tribunal claims.

Follow a fair procedure to protect your business

In the recent case, it does appear that a number of procedures were either not followed correctly or completely ignored. We would always advise employers to adhere to the following steps when engaging their grievance procedure, including:

  • Implementing the grievance procedure in instances where informal as well as formal grievances are raised by an employee
  • Carrying out a full investigation â?? including taking witness statements where necessary
  • Arranging for a manager not involved in the grievance to conduct the grievance meeting
  • Allowing the employee to have a colleague or trade union representative attend the meeting with them
  • Arranging for a person to take comprehensive notes at the meeting

It is also vital that any investigation is carried out in a timely fashion, as is evidenced by the employment tribunalâ??s criticism of the delay in investing the sexual harassment claim.

Contact us for expert advice on your grievance procedures

Here at LawforEmployers, we provide pro-active legal advice to businesses of all sizes. We can ensure that the correct policies and procedures are in place to keep you fully up to date.

To discover how you can SafeGuard your business, get in touch with one of our specialist solicitors by calling 01282 695 400.

Or, book your free consultation by completing our simple online contact form.