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unhappy with union rep and grievance advice

(41 Posts)
rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:03:36

I want to raise a formal grievance against my employer but my union rep is actively discouraging it, despite me speaking to her several times over the years about the way I'm being treated and always trying to deal with it informally.

I do not feel an informal approach is working anymore, as the situation keeps reoccuring. I also feel that as it includes discrimination which I can evidence, and fraud amongst other things, then an informal approach is not right.

AIBU to be annoyed with my union rep? Our company (public sector) pushes informal approach then 3 stages of formal (if informal doesn't work).

I have tried to email my manager's manager and request a meeting so I have tried informal again but my requests to meet have not been responded to. I am awaiting an OH referral as I am signed off sick with stress.

This has been going on for years and I've had enough. I don't want to take an informal approach then 6 months later, the same thing happens again, which is always the case. It is starting to seriously affect my health, hence the sick leave.

My family are pushing the informal approach too because of the extra stress it would cause me (and the risk of being forced to leave and have no income).

I don't know what to do and I feel really let down by everyone. The thought of going back to work and listening to my manager denying everything and seeing her spineless manager accepting her lies, is just making me more ill.

Does anyone have any advice? I am due to meet with my union rep prior to my expected date of return from sick leave to discuss what to say when I meet with my manager (I don't want to meet my manager, I want a new manager amongst other things but her manager wants me to talk it over with her despite the bullying and discrimination, including whilst I was on sick leave!)

I'm v upset by it all.

BadPennyNoBiscuit Sun 07-Apr-19 14:04:30

Have you spoken to ACAS?

OvertiredandConfused Sun 07-Apr-19 14:07:35

You need to get some advice from someone other than your union rep, colleagues and friends or family. I’m guessing you don’t have a Employee Assistance Program? If you do then definitely contact them. Failing that I would try CAB, although the wait can be long, maybe ACAS or even a lawyer who specialises in employment law and is willing to give you an initial free consultation.

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:13:55

I did phone ACAS and they said because it includes discrimination, I should consider taking it formal and get a lawyer (which I don't think I can afford and want to avoid for as long as I can).

We do have an employee assistance programme, which I have used before, but that was just free counselling.

MrsGrannyWeatherwax Sun 07-Apr-19 14:14:19

Without knowing any circumstances of your grievance (I’m not asking) it sounds as though they believe you are not being technically discriminated against. By this I mean, if you went the formal route they are assuming that it wouldn’t be upheld which would cause more upset / hurt from your perspective.

I have only limited exposure of grievances in the public sector, but I remember clearly a case which the individual felt strongly that they had been discriminated and bullied. This was not found to be the case at all, but the grievances just continued escalating and the poor individuals MH dropped drastically. Even when advised that every procedure and protocol had been followed, moving teams etc they still felt they had a case and ignored every piece of advice given. Frustrating to everyone involved.

My point isn’t that this is your case at all, but could you ask someone at work you really trust to talk through how they would deal with it? And seek their advice. If they also believe the formal route is appropriate then fight everyone for every step in the process as you need to. Equally your rep should be offering you support.

LovelyBranches Sun 07-Apr-19 14:17:33

I’m a union officer. If you aren’t happy with your reps advice go to your union and ask for your local branch Officer to represent you instead. Reps receive training from the unions but there are plenty of times when a union officer has to get involved and that’s not a problem at all. There are many times when union reps have reached a point where they don’t feel they can push any further and I go in to help them but there’s also many times when I take over from them. Phone your union tomorrow and they should be able to help you.

LovelyBranches Sun 07-Apr-19 14:18:35

Also if your case needs to go down the legal route it’s best to get the union officer involved sooner rather than later.

StrippingTheVelvet Sun 07-Apr-19 14:21:54

What outcome would you like from a grievance that raising it informally will not provide?

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:24:57

I can't go into too much detail but I would like:

an end to the discrimination
reasonable adjustments in place, and an end to me having to keep reminding people
awareness training to prevent further discrimination
disciplinary action for my manager for the fraud and victimisation
a new line manager (but not a new role as I like the role)

WoahThereMama Sun 07-Apr-19 14:29:17

What discrimination do you believe you’ve encountered and how did it manifest itself? As another poster asked, what outcome do you think formal will give that informal won’t?

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:37:23

direct and indirect disability discrimination, discrimination arising from disability, failure to make reasonable adjustments, victimisation for helping another experiencing discrimination, observing racial discrimination, bullying, harrassment, fraud. I have evidence of it all.

Informal has been tried numerous times and the behaviour stops then recontinues after a few months. I've just had enough. My mental health is really suffering now as I'm so frustrated with it all.

BadPennyNoBiscuit Sun 07-Apr-19 14:38:35

I’m a union officer. If you aren’t happy with your reps advice go to your union and ask for your local branch Officer to represent you instead.

This is a good idea.
Also, do you have a detailed incident diary?

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 14:55:14

not a diary no, but I have gone through emails and gathered emails across 3 years that I can use as evidence. I also have an OH report with recommendations that were ignored, appraisal records, reports and budget spreadsheets as evidence too.

My manager has bullied someone else (although non disabled) who subsequently left the organisation (but keeps in touch and is also telling me to take it formal). This person complained informally and the manager got a slapped wrist. Now it's my turn sad

If I take an informal approach and that doesn't work, there might not be a rachelzane for the union rep to speak to next time. That's how bad I feel right now. I need to make it stop. I need respect, dignity and to be taken seriously. Not to be called lazy, stupid etc on a weekly basis.

Steamfan Sun 07-Apr-19 14:57:52

Good advice about a local branch officer - or just go straight to union HQ

LittleChristmasMouse Sun 07-Apr-19 15:00:20

I understand completely OP. I have been pursuing reasonable adjustments at work since June last year. Still waiting. Involved union at every step and their view " not much we can do. The company it's outsourced to is taking a long time" and so basically I just have to wait.

OvertiredandConfused Sun 07-Apr-19 15:01:44

In addition to escalating it within the union, now you have clarified that it is disability discrimination it might be worth contacting a charity that specialises in supporting people with whatever condition you are living with. Very often they can signpost to specialist support related to that condition.

PinkiOcelot Sun 07-Apr-19 15:02:45

If you are adamant that you go this route, I would go to HR and initiate the process. Also speak to the union and request another rep - or vice versa if you think change of rep should be first.
Good luck OP. I hope you get something sorted x

MrsGrannyWeatherwax Sun 07-Apr-19 15:03:06

Your update sounds as though you’re taking the right steps, I hope you get the support you need OP.

grannieanne Sun 07-Apr-19 15:05:21

This is almost identical to my experience working for a MH charity.... same scenario... informal achieved nothing, in fact the victimisation got worse, my Line Manager psychiatric name calling me in a meeting, it was awful... he has now put in a retaliatory grievance against me, allagedly before I made mine in October, which is utter rubbish... I am being made to work in the same office as him in my phased return..I was off for a month with stress after I was acused of not being at off site premises working when I was. Now they are trying to scrutinise my mileage, im being monitored... its hideous. My union rep left in March but didnt alert me so now have to get further representation. This is all because I questioned a decision my Manager made without telling me, that would affect me quite significantly. I have had my honesty and integrity questioned and it's awful. I think the only way forward for you is to formalise this and be prepared to have a lot of mud slung your way if your employer is anything like mine.

Isleepinahedgefund Sun 07-Apr-19 15:09:51

The union aren't always useful, as you are unfortunately finding out. I recently had a similar experience where my employer was refusing to make reasonable adjustments (not even investigating the need/effect/cost, just saying flat no) and the union rep was so unhelpful. I approached the union for support with a grievance and the rep refused to help, even though I had already spoken to ACAS and the disability council and established that I had grounds for it. The usefulness depends on the person dealing with it. Fortunately I have since changed employer and union and the whole thing has gone away as I don't need the adjustment in my new organisation.

The problem with doing it without union support is that part of what the union offers is legal assistance that most of us wouldn't be able to afford. They won't give you this if you seek it from elsewhere or put in your grievance without union support, so pursue the union support. Complain about your local rep and get another one.

Isleepinahedgefund Sun 07-Apr-19 15:15:32

By the way I think your list of remedies is a bit unrealistic. You can't ask them to discipline someone else to remedy your grievance. You might have to be flexible about the role you're doing - which is more important, getting way from the manager or keeping your job?

It will be very hard for them to successfully influence other people's behaviour in the way you want re not having to remind people, again I don't think this is a realistic ask.

Just a thought, but if you ask for unreasonable things you won't get anywhere. Don't make it a wish list, focus on one or two things that will make the most impact on you and improve your experience of the workplace.

From what you've said, that is adequate reasonable adjustments and a new line manager. I've know people get those having put in a grievance about the working relationship between them and their manager having broken down.

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 15:27:12


Thanks for that advice, some good points there

My manager has openly admitted in the past that she felt threatened by me and ex colleague (who was also bullied). We had started at the same time and she was originally the only person in the team doing this very specific niche job. Team has since expanded a bit, which manager does not like.

So if I leave for another role or company, manager wins, as pushing me out is clearly what she wants.

LakieLady Sun 07-Apr-19 15:50:46

I've known a few people resort to formal grievances (mostly in public and 3rd sectors), and imo they rarely succeed. Managers tend to stick together, and most managers are reluctant to break ranks and find fault with a colleague.

This is especially true when the manager hearing the grievance is the line manager of the other manager and/or has appointed them. Admitting that they're in the wrong reflects badly on their own supervision or judgment.

In the one case I know of where the complainant won, it all backfired as the employee was made redundant 6 months later. Although we all knew it was a stitch-up, they'd done everything by the book and there were no grounds for taking it further.

In another case, where a manager had been the subject of repeated complaints from numerous staff, 2 grievances failed even though the woman was an appalling bully. She was, however, put on the capability procedure and closely monitored.

In the end, she was so arrogant that she ended up being demoted and moved to a location far away, because of an undeclared conflict of interest, whereupon she promptly left. Management were delighted to have got rid of her at last, because they knew she was a bitch but there was never a cut and dried case that gave them good grounds for disciplinary action against her.

As yours is a discrimination matter, I wonder if there might be merit in contacting the Equal Opportunities Commission? They might be able to advise, or point you in the direction of someone who can.

Mouikey Sun 07-Apr-19 15:55:05

Another Union rep here - we are not all made equal and have varying levels of training and experience. In the very first instance go to your Branch Secretary and explain you concerns about your representation. Another rep maybe able to help or you could go directly to your regional organiser. If this escalated you need the union on board as you will get leagal cover/advice as part of your subs.

However, if your rep hasn’t, you need to know that grievances are awful. They are stressful even if you are in the right. There are also and always unintended consequences to raising a grievance and none of them are positive (I’m. It saying this is right, just a general observation). This is probably why your rep is advising not to do it.

In terms of your remedies:

an end to the discrimination - absolutely yes.
reasonable adjustments in place, and an end to me having to keep reminding people
awareness training to prevent further discrimination - do you have a disability? If you are in Unison they have a team specifically set up for these cases. BUT, what reasonable adjustment are you expecting? Adjustments for you or your manager? Go to OH see what they say. Also consider asking access to work to come in and support you - they can recommend technology and physical changes to help you.
disciplinary action for my manager for the fraud and victimisation - this may happen with regard to the bullying but not necessarily about the fraud. You may wish to check your whistleblowing policy and make a complaint through that process.
a new line manager (but not a new role as I like the role) - won’t happen, and you’ll look like a whinge and very unprofessional. Have you had mediation to try and improve the relationship? You should put that forward as a suggestion - will make you look 100% better than saying ‘I want a different manager’.

There is a lot going on here but ask for a new rep or go to region.

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 16:05:11

so I'm expected to keep working with a manager who makes me ill, reduces me to tears, says horrible things to me in a 121 situation? I'm seriously not allowed to request another line manager? I've had a different line manager than the rest of my team before - it is definitely possible. And the thought of mediation makes me anxious - it'll just become a shouting match full of denials etc.

I do have assistive equipment through Access to Work but it is adjustments of the type that Access to Work cannot fund (eg working conditions/hours/location etc) that was recommended by OH in the past that has not been met.

I have several disabilities and my manager (and others in the organisation) expect me to be able to do things that my disabilities prevent me from doing. I have also been blocked from promotion due to my disabilities.

I don't want to lose my job, I don't want to be forced out, but I can't see myself being happy at work.

I did speak to EHRC who, in addition to ACAS, said to get legal advice, make a formal grievance, and consider a tribunal.

AgentProvocateur Sun 07-Apr-19 16:12:03

If you have evidence of fraud, you should use the whistleblowing policy to report it rather than the grievance procedure.

Isleepinahedgefund Sun 07-Apr-19 16:34:09

OP, I have been in a (second) similar situation with an awful bully line manager, I got moved away to another team by just making a massive fuss but my two colleagues had to resort to the grievance process to get a change of line management. The remedy they both asked for, and got, was a change of line manager. So it's not impossible and certainly does/can happen.

However: I want to pick up on where you say that if you leave she wins. In the situation I described above, I had the same attitude and even though I "won", if I could do the time again I would have left rather than got further into the incredibly toxic situation. The whole experience did lasting damage to my mental health. You have to know when to cut your losses and do what's going to serve you best in the long run. It took me 10 of the last 12 years to recover emotionally and career wise from that. I spent that time being labelled as a nuisance and a trouble maker rather than receiving sympathy for the absolute horrors that manager put me and my colleagues through and that people saw first hand because it was very public. My colleagues suffered similarly.

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 19:30:21


You could be me. One of the reasons I am in this current role is because of a horrible manager/team in another department. It also damaged my mental health and took me 6 years to recover emotionally and career wise - which I thought I had done when I got this job.

My manager was not my manager when I first got this job. She was originally a colleague, then 2 years ago she became my manager and started chipping away at my self esteem and I now find myself going backwards again.

I seem to be a magnet for bullying and discrimination. I'm scared to do yet another sideways move in case it's no better. She's got me wondering "is it me?" She gaslights me, she's the very definition of gaslighting.

I simply cannot allow myself to keep being treated this way. I feel so angry at how I'm being treated and so angry at the lack of understanding, empathy and support from others.

daisychain01 Sun 07-Apr-19 21:01:11

I don't think it's you necessarily, there is definitely an increasing proportion of aggressive, narcissistic people in public and private sector nowadays.

Sometimes people do not know how they come across to others, nor the effect they have on people, other times they enjoy the feeling of power and abuse their authority to the max, often deluded in thinking they will make people work harder, faster, more productively. Quite the reverse.

Do you have a Diversity and Inclusion Rep? These tend to be HR support advisors with specialist knowledge of how to handle tricky situations where there is evidence of discrimination and harassment. In my organisation, they can be helpful to get on-side, as they can provide informal non-partisan feedback on scenarios to help determine whether they are or are not discriminatory/ harassment and why.

Basically, you produce your own documentary evidence about your concerns, then run through it with the D+I advisor, who assesses the details and are meant to give an unbiased factual assessment of the situation.

Reality is it depends on how seriously the organisation takes B+H. If they exercise a zero tolerance approach, they are more likely to take it seriousl, but it does need tenacity and keeping everything factual and being willing to meet the organisation half-way. Even though you feel the manager is 100% in the wrong, there needs to be a willingness to see the other perspective, "give a bit, get a bit". What you want them to see is that harm is being done to a valuable asset, i.e. you, so being the bigger person can really help move things forward.

It's impossible to describe how appalling it is to be bullied by someone who has the power to make or break your career. You have my absolute empathy, but stay strong, you do have 'right to reply' even if you have to come up against a brick wall or two along the way.

Sorry this was War and Peace :-D

daisychain01 Sun 07-Apr-19 21:18:20

a new line manager (but not a new role as I like the role)

I'm trying to think how viable this would be. It would involve the Manager either being dismissed, or moving them elsewhere, in order to meet your desired outcome.

This could be massively disruptive when, potentially the perception is that the Manager is delivering to their Objectives. It would involve a chain of activities, including putting a new manager in post in short order, and them picking up the reins.

In your position I would quite frankly accept a move to the same grade of role but elsewhere. It would be a move to safety, no more stress and the ability to start afresh with a new team, not tainted by the negative associations of what had gone before.

I've known people to be willing to sacrifice pay increase, bonus and completion of objectives, just to be transferred away from a negative incompetent manager. In each case, they were very glad they made the move and felt happier for it.

daisychain01 Sun 07-Apr-19 21:20:41

^ a transfer is significantly more achieveable in public sector, where there are mirror roles across the organisation. There's always "10 or 15 of everything" smile

rachelzane Sun 07-Apr-19 22:00:02

thank you @daisychain01

Our D&I team are useless, I know more about D&I than they do and that's no joke. They literally have come to me for advice before. I am the company's poster girl for diversity! you couldn't make it up!

We are a small team/department and there are others at her grade who could take on the management role with minimal disruption.

I really do not want to change jobs because in this role I get lots of praise, positive feedback, have won awards etc, which I never did before, yet my manager thinks I do not do enough or do good enough. I worry that I will become invisible again if I leave this role. Plus I really do enjoy it, it's my 'thing' which previous roles were not.

Jimdandy Sun 07-Apr-19 22:08:30

Unions are useless for help with employment issues. Get proper advice from somebody qualified not someone who has been on a 2 day training course.

daisychain01 Sun 07-Apr-19 23:23:13

The permanent state of anger will take its toll on your health the longer you stay in the environment causing it. Is it really worth it, if you've already explored all options. Only you know how much you can put up with.

rickandmorts Sun 07-Apr-19 23:30:28

Another union rep here! You need to go back to your branch and request your area or regional rep who works for the union, not just a workplace steward. I'm surprised this hasn't been suggested yet to you!! I've recently repped a member and they had to go before a HR panel and as standard for anything like this I got the regional rep to come too as they're much more experienced and knowledgable than me.

GlitterNails Sun 07-Apr-19 23:47:24

I’ve been through this exact situation and I was able to fund a case through my house insurance which had legal cover. My union were also terrible and left me to do it all myself.

I had to put in a grievance before I handed in my notice then I took them to court for disability discrimination. It’s going to be really hard while still working there but you have every right to get support.

People don’t realise how hard it is being disabled in the workplace a lot of the time. Not only do you have the health issues but the bullying, politics and resentment that goes alongside it in various form. It’s beyond exhausting.

clairemcnam Mon 08-Apr-19 00:52:59

Are the other adjustments recommended by OH realistic? I ask because I had OH recommending adjustments that I knew were never going to happen because of logistics, and indeed they didn't.
OH say what should happen ideally. Managers look at what is reasonable.
I have managed a team of managers and I would not want someone in a team being managed by a different manager. It is disruptive to team working. I totally understand where you are coming from. But either someone is capable of being a manager, or they are not, and this would affect all team members.

rachelzane Mon 08-Apr-19 08:41:29

Yes the OH recommendations are reasonable and relate to things like additional breaks, ability to work from home, notes in advance, someone to scribe for me, particular seating arrangements etc

@glitternails you understand my situation perfectly then. It is indeed very exhausting. Having to explain everything, justify behaviours that relate to my disabilities, having to listen to what others think is reasonable and unreasonable, having to constantly remind has just really worn me down to the point where I am now on sick leave.

I don't have legal cover on my house insurance

LakieLady Mon 08-Apr-19 08:51:49

And the thought of mediation makes me anxious - it'll just become a shouting match full of denials etc.

Unless you have a woefully incompetent mediator, that absolutely won't happen. If mediation is suggested, I'd strongly advise you to agree to it. If you don't, it will look as though you are being obstructive.

Would you be allowed to record 121's on your phone? That would almost certainly stop your manager from saying awful things. But taking contemporaneous notes of what is said would be the next best thing.

As well as checking the whistleblowing policy, it's worth checking if they have an anti-bullying policy, and what it says. If they do, and they haven't complied, you should raise the issues again making very clear that you regard it as a bullying matter, as well as a discrimination issue.

WutheringTights Mon 08-Apr-19 09:01:58

I'm a charitable trustee. I was in a situation where an employee raised a grievance against another staff member. It was investigated properly by outside HR advisers and the perpetrator was eventually dismissed for gross misconduct. In that case though the perpetrator was a known trouble maker and interviews with staff revealed multiple cases of bullying and harassment. So, it does work, but the bar is pretty high for dismissal, which is as it should be. Hope that helps.

WeeDangerousSpike Mon 08-Apr-19 10:11:07

I'm wishing you all the best. I've suffered mild disability discrimination in the past, from people that didn't really understand what they were doing. It all got sorted very quickly, but even the short time it was going on was all consuming and awful.

I've also suffered from incompetent and dishonest management, leading to months off work with stress and almost a complete breakdown.

In my case it wasn't malicious, just complete inability to be a functional manager or accept their shortcomings. (and it wasn't just me, they'd manage a team, relations would break down, new manager appointed, after a while they'd manage another team, rinse and repeat.

You've had what looks like some good advice, I hope it resolves for you as best it can.

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