Sometimes, issues in the workplace escalate to a point where outside intervention is needed if an employee and an employer in dispute cannot resolve a problem amicably. Whilst managers and employers in general do not like to admit defeat, sometimes they need to accept that external skills, a fresh approach, is the answer. If an employer really wants to contain matters and avoid a costly and lengthy employment tribunal process, they will accept advice from external, independent, experts. The ACAS ‘Conciliation Explained’ May 2018, states;
Simply, a nominated representative is someone the employee chooses for themselves. Anyone can be the employee’s ‘nominated representative’. This includes anyone with conflict resolution, mediation and settlement negotiation skills, including a Claims Management organisation that specialise in conflict resolution. Importantly, the nominated representative does not have to be Trade Union Representative. A lot of employers are not aware of this.
In respect of the in-house grievance or disciplinary dispute process, most workplace policies say; ‘During the formal stage of a Grievance or Disciplinary procedure the employee will have the right to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or trade union official’
Let us be clear, the ACAS Conciliation Explained document does not say your employer must allow someone other than a colleague or trade union official accompany you at meetings. However, an employee can reasonably ask their employer to recognise their chosen nominated representative, and allow that person in to meetings. An employee is advised to put this request in writing.
This is good news for any employee who is not a member of a Union. It is also good news for the employee who feels that their Union Representative is in a conflict of interest (ie: working for the same employer), and/or is struggling to achieve a positive outcome for both the employee and the employer.
If you are unable to resolve your dispute with your employer through the in-house grievance or disciplinary processes (Stages 1 & 2) or if at any time during that process you want to engage in conciliation, typically a Without Prejudice process (ie: off the record talks) you can instruct someone who specialises in Conflict Resolution and conciliation services to handle that for you. That person does not have to be a Union Representative.
Further, if an employee loses confidence in a Union, they can ‘at any time’ seek a second opinion from a nominated person who specialises in this specialist area of work and that may be a firm who specialises in conciliation services – such as Settlement Agreement services. For further information about the Conciliation process, see ‘Conciliation Explained’ a document found on the ACAS website.
ACAS - Conciliation Explained