Should we wait until maternity leave is up to deal with a grievance appeal?Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 4 May 2018
Q: An employee has appealed a grievance outcome whilst out on maternity leave. Should we wait until the maternity leave is up or make adjustments such as submit appeal points in writing or host it via a phone call?
Seamus: I think certainly from the point of view where the employee is pregnant and is close to birth, it’s not a good idea to be proceeding with the appeal at that point. When the employee has requested space and time in terms of the birth, that should be adhered to. After that, I think it’s really a discussion directly with the employee as to how the employee would like the matter to be dealt with. It’s presenting the options with the employee to say, ‘You’re on maternity leave. This is how we can go about dealing with your appeal.’ There’s no doubt if there’s an appeal then this is going to be a stressful time for this employee. Pregnancy will be a stressful time in itself. Being a new mother will be a stressful time. Probably from the employee’s eyes, the employment issue will take a back step to all of that, I would have thought. It might not, but I would have thought that.
Scott: People change for their own maternity leave as well. You can give them some options but I think it’s about revisiting it and saying, “What do you want?” The grievance situation won’t change presumably when somebody’s off on maternity leave. It’s not as if she’s lost it. It’s not going to change in the meantime.
Seamus: It’s not going to go anywhere. I suppose it’s about adhering to good workplace principles in terms of going back to the employee and saying, ‘What is it you want to do about this?’ There will be flexibility from the employer’s point of view. Hopefully, in terms of being able to hold off on some time here and then working with the employee as to how they want to deal with it, do they want to come in and have a meeting or do they possibly as an alternative want to deal with it through some form of written correspondence setting out their points.
Scott: Long-term, if you’ve had somebody off for a year on maternity leave and they’re sitting there with a grievance on appeal, if you like, and they’re coming back into the workplace, you would hope they’d be coming back to a welcome. They’ve got all this extra leave obviously that’s been accruing, that would be resolved. It’s probably in everyone’s interest to get the thing resolved before you come back.
Seamus: I would have thought so, absolutely. The reality is it’s a long time to let the grievance sit. As things sit, sometimes they can fester and they can become worse. So, I agree, absolutely, before there’s a return to work you’d be looking to have this dealt with and resolved. There is flexibility within that time period to be able to do that.
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