Question of the Month – Can an employee refuse to work while they have a grievance with the company?

Last updated: February 2nd, 2017

Employers need to be very active when dealing with or responding to grievances of employees. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as a legitimate health and safety concern, employees are not entitled to refrain from work following the lodgement of a grievance with the employer.

Where the employee exhausts the internal process, and the outcome is not favourable to them, they always have recourse to raise their issue with the Workplace Relations Commission. Despite this, they are still expected to continue with their normal duties. Disagreements and conflict are part of the normal course of the employer/employee relationship and the purpose of the grievance procedure is to address these in a productive fashion. That means there should be no disruption to the normal course of business nor any unfavourable treatment of the employee during the course of trying to resolve these conflicts.

In some cases, an employee may raise a grievance as an attempt to delay the instigation or an ongoing disciplinary procedure. Thus, another reason to attempt to resolve the grievance at the earliest opportunity with the help of the grievance procedure.

Employers need to note that there is a potential risk when a grievance is unattended and not dealt with through either the informal or formal grievance procedure. Employers must ensure that every effort is made in resolving the raised grievance so as to avoid a potential claim. Where grievances are not dealt with an employee may have reason to claim constructive dismissal based on the behaviour of the employer rendering their continued employment untenable for a reasonable person.

It is the duty of the employer to familiarise the employee with the grievance procedure of the company and recommend it as and when required.

If you have any concerns over your current grievance procedure you can call the advice line on 01 886 0350 for support.

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Nora Cashe

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Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

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Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

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David Begg

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