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The side effects of a reshaping

It has become obvious from the instructions we have received from our clients that, over the last eighteen months, the number of staff grievances in education institutions is on the increase.

It appears that, following necessary restructures and reshaping as a result of the budget cuts being suffered by schools, academies, colleges and universities, that the remaining staff are complaining bitterly about having to do more work for the same or less money and feel they are receiving no recognition or appreciation. This can be a stand alone grievance or as a reaction to an informal or formal performance management process. It is essential that once an education institution becomes leaner it needs to perform as efficiently and effectively as possible and this can result in the need for tighter performance management which can result in such grievances.

Not only do such grievances take up a lot of valuable management time but, if handled incorrectly, they can expose you to claims such as constructive unfair dismissal or unlawful discrimination. If you handle these grievances in a fair and reasonable manner, you are much less likely to lose valued and skilled staff through their resignation. As these are the staff that have remained following any restructure or reshaping then the chances are that these are the staff that you wish to retain to take your institution forward into the future. Having them unhappy does not aid your efficiency or productivity. It can also have an impact on the student experience if the staff in question are student facing. Also their complaints, if not handled, can lead to a series of complaints or resignations from other staff who also become disenchanted.

Having a written grievance procedure is essential especially with the ACAS Code of Practice having statutory effect. The aim behind a grievance procedure is for staff to be able to raise an issue with the hope that it can be resolved quickly and effectively. This should always be the mantra that is used when considering someone’s grievance.

The key aim is to provide a framework for dealing promptly and fairly with complaints that have not been sorted out satisfactorily in the course of everyday working relationships. You should always aim to try to settle those grievances informally. This should be offered as the first stage of your grievance procedure. Many problems can be sorted out this way, without the need for more formal steps and can stop matters escalating to a point where the parties become entrenched.

Sometimes, when staff consider that they are required to do more work for the same or less money, it may be as a result of a misunderstanding of what is required of them and why. It may be that in the past they have been underutilised and are now required to work to the terms of their contract, for example in relation to full utilisation of the required teaching hours. It may be that they are presuming that some duties will remain theirs when indeed they may not. The financial situation that an institution finds itself in and, as a result, the need for staff to work more efficiently and effectively, can help staff understanding.

Under no circumstances should you disregard such grievances or not treat them seriously. The risk of doing so could lead to expensive claims which may then negate the savings made by any restructure or reshaping, especially with the possibility of an uplift of 25% on any compensation awarded for failure to follow the ACAS Code.

If you have received any grievances from staff relating to perceived changes to their role as a result of any restructure or reshaping, please feel free to contact Natalie Ruane on 01228 552222 or nr@burnetts.co.ukfor advice and assistance.

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie is a Partner and leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Categorised: Education, Employment

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