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Before you make a complaint

Don’t do it for the wrong reasons

“A Turkish man came to me for advice. He was offered a 12-month contract after claiming in an interview that his written English was fluent. His boss quickly realised that his written skills weren’t up to scratch, and at his 6-month review they told him he wasn’t going to be kept on. He took it very badly and started attacking his boss, calling him racist and demanding his dismissal. But it wasn't racist. He wasn't being kept on because he simply couldn't do the job.”
Andy, Adviser, Colchester

You should only use the grievance procedures you have a good reason to. Don’t do it in order to get back at someone because you are angry. If you feel that you have been unfairly criticised, there are much better ways of defending your position.

If you have been unhappy about the way your work has been treating you, don’t store it up for a long time as ammunition. Anyone looking at your complaint will wonder why you never did anything about it before, and that could weaken your case.

Before you make a complaint, it is important to think clearly about whether it is really something that you want to do. Consider discussing your concerns informally with your manager or another suitable person at work before raising a formal complaint.

The pros and cons of making a complaint

Pros

  • You might succeed in putting a stop to the discrimination. Things are unlikely to change if you don’t make your feelings known.
  • If you make your employer aware of discrimination, it’s up to them to put a stop to it. If they don’t do all they reasonably can to stop it, you could take them to an employment tribunal and possibly get compensation. Your work can’t be held responsible if they don’t know about it.
  • If you don't use the grievance procedures, and instead take the problem straight to an employment tribunal, any compensation you get might be reduced by up to 25%.

Cons

  • It can be stressful. You will probably have to attend meetings with senior management. It’s important that you stick with the complaint once you’ve raised it.
  • Making a complaint may damage work relationships. No one likes to hear criticisms about themselves, even if they’re true.
  • Think about the practicalities of your situation at work. Are things likely to change soon anyway? It might not be worth making a complaint if your problem is only temporary. But do remember that if you do not make a complaint reasonably soon after the problem arises it will be difficult to complain about it later as a Tribunal claim may be out of time
    Complaining Makes It Worse
    If you are unsure about whether to do anything, speak to an experienced adviser. If you are a member of a trade union, your representative should be able to help, or you could contact your local advice centre.

What if I am treated badly because I made a complaint?

“It was shocking the way the Kosovans at work always got lumbered with the worst shifts. I complained about it, which didn’t go down too well. My boss started giving me the worst shifts too “since I like them so much...”.”
Ron, London

If you make a complaint about discrimination, it is against the law for your employer to treat you badly because of it. Lawyers call this victimisation. It doesn’t matter if you are complaining on your behalf or someone else's. It is also against the law to be treated badly for supporting someone else’s complaint about discrimination.

If you are treated in this way, you should use your work’s grievance procedure to make a complaint. You can make a claim at a tribunal if your work doesn’t deal with the problem.

Sexual Bullying

“Management knows how sleazy he is with women, but they let him get away with it. Why is it up to me to make a complaint?”
Lynne, Croydon

It is against the law for your employer to turn a blind eye to discrimination. That could be grounds for a complaint in itself.

In the meantime, you may have to take matters into your own hands. By making a complaint you force your work into a position where they have to do something about it or they could be taken to an employment tribunal.

December 2011

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Dealing with discrimination?

Franklyn New

The law protects you from being discriminated against at work because you are in the minority. Don't just put up with it. Our discrimination section explains exactly what discrimination is illegal and what you can do about it. Go to Is that discrimination?

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