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An unjustified disadvantage is a type of personal grievance that employees can raise against their employers. Unfortunately, despite employees and employers’ best intentions, problems do occur in the workplace from time to time. ‘Unjustified disadvantages’ refers to the general concept that employees have suffered something that makes it hard for them to do their job. This concept can cover a range of different situations.

This article will set out: 

  • what an ‘unjustified disadvantage’ actually is; 
  • some common examples; and 
  • the process for managing unjustified disadvantage claims.

What Does ‘Unjustified Disadvantage’ Actually Mean?

The term ‘unjustified disadvantage’, in simple terms, means that an employee’s conditions of work have been disadvantaged or worsened by an employer without any reasonable justification. It is an intentionally broad category to capture many different possible grounds for an employee to raise a personal grievance. 

Specifically, there are two legal grounds for employees to raise a personal grievance for an unjustified disadvantage, including when the:

  • worker’s employer does something that affects their employment or conditions of work in a way that disadvantages them or makes it harder for them to do their job; or
  • employer’s action involving the employee is not justified in some way. It may be unfair or unreasonable, or otherwise not be in good faith.

Note that an employee may resign if they raise a concern with you about an unjustifiable disadvantage in the workplace, and they do not feel that you have dealt with it. Further, they could eventually bring an action against you as their employer for constructive dismissal. 

Examples of Possible Unjustified Disadvantage

Due to the open-ended nature of unjustified disadvantage, there is a range of different scenarios where employees have successfully raised a personal grievance based on those grounds. It is essential to be aware of these to avoid them in your own business, and hopefully, minimise possible grievances against the business. Some of these examples include:

  • not dealing with an issue raised by an employee, where that issue makes it harder for the employee to do their job properly. For instance, failing to manage bullying or harassment claims against an employee will make it challenging for them to do their job;
  • withdrawing work or not giving work to an employee to a substantial degree;
  • the demotion of an employee into a lower job, particularly without cause;
  • illegally suspending an employee without pay;
  • transferring the employee to another location without consultation. Particularly when this causes logistical difficulties for them if they live in a different area; or
  • giving an unjustified warning to an employee, whether without a good reason or a fair process.

Some other examples include:

  • changing an employee’s hours of work or pay without consultation;
  • underpaying an employee;
  • misleading an employee in some way, particularly when the outcome of that is unfair;
  • not providing an employee with the opportunity to respond or give feedback on allegations against them; and
  • not providing an employee with a safe workplace. This can encompass a wide range of possible threats to health and safety. 

The Process for Managing Claims of Unjustified Disadvantage 

There is a set process for employees to raise personal grievances, including with you as their employer. When an employee brings an issue to your attention, you should try as hard as possible to resolve the matter informally. If the problem remains unresolved, your employee may formally raise a personal grievance in writing to you. 

Note that they have 90 days to do this after the event in question causing the grievance.

This communication should describe the employee’s personal grievance and request a formal meeting to resolve the issue. The employee must clearly state what their complaint is and why they believe that they have a grievance. At this point, you should commence a formal process (with the specifics depending on the nature of the employee’s claim).

Key Takeaways

An unjustified disadvantage refers to a form of personal grievance where an employee claims that an employer has hampered their job or conditions of work without any reasonable justification. It is a broad category of different possible grounds, including instances where an employer has acted unfairly (like suspending an employee without grounds). It also includes instances where an employer in an authority position makes work harder for an employee (like failing to manage a safety or bullying issue that the employee raises.

If you have any questions about unjustified disadvantages or employment law, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an unjustified disadvantage and an unjustified dismissal?

An unjustified dismissal refers specifically to when an employee has been dismissed and raises a personal grievance on that basis. An unjustified disadvantage can cover many more types of grounds, unrelated to dismissal.

What are the penalties for an unjustified disadvantage?

They can differ depending on the specific claim, but often involve some amount of compensation. Many unjustified disadvantage claims are also resolved in mediation before the case reaches an employment court.

How long does an employee have to raise an unjustified disadvantage?

They have 90 days, like other personal grievances, from the event that gave rise to the issue or grievance (or when the employee became aware of an event).

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