Appealing decisions made by employers

According to the Acas Code of Practice, the opportunity to appeal against a disciplinary decision is essential to "natural justice". Whether you are an employee or employer, understanding the appeal process will stand you in good stead.

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What types of employer decision might an employee appeal?

There are various formal decisions which may be appealed by employees but the most popular concern:

  • first or final warnings
  • redundancy or dismissal
  • flexible working requests

It's a good idea for employers to implement a grievance procedure which outlines the right of appeal and the process. Otherwise, it's advisable to follow the Acas Code of Practice (except in cases of redundancy or the non-renewal of fixed term contracts on their expiry, where it does not apply).

How can an employee appeal an employer decision?

An employee should check the employer's handbook for employees and follow the grievance procedure it sets out. If this does not exist or fails to deal with appeals, follow the Acas Code of Practice (except in cases of redundancy or the non-renewal of fixed term contracts on their expiry, where it does not apply).

The first thing to do is to write a formal letter of appeal. Consider using Rocket Lawyer's Employee notice of appeal for this purpose; this covers appeals against a disciplinary decision, a dismissal, a redundancy or unfair decisions against you (eg, an unfair refusal to your flexible working request). The letter should set out the grounds of your appeal such as incorrect evidence, new evidence, problems with the decision process or, in the case of redundancy, unfair selection grounds and incorrect reasons for redundancy. You can also specify who you would like to accompany you to the appeal hearing.

Once you have requested an appeal, it is now up to your employer to set up an appeal hearing. If they fail to do so, you may want to consider taking legal action such as going to an Employment Tribunal. For more information, Ask a lawyer.

How can an employer deal with an appeal against their decision?

In general, there is no obligation for an employer to offer an appeal but, if a case ends up going to an Employment Tribunal, in certain scenarios you can be penalised for failing to provide the right of appeal.

Always check your handbook for employees and follow the grievance procedure it sets out. If this does not exist or fails to deal with appeals, follow the Acas Code of Practice (except in cases of redundancy or the non-renewal of fixed term contracts on their expiry, where it does not apply).

If you receive an appeal request, you should arrange an appeal hearing without unreasonable delay, generally within five working days. When writing to the employee to confirm the hearing, also remind them of their right to bring a companion; this can be a colleague or trade union rep. The appeal hearing should generally be held in a similar way to the initial hearing; however, if possible, a more senior manager should handle the appeal hearing - or at least a different manager to the one who handled the initial hearing.

Communicate the outcome of the appeal hearing to the employee in writing as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours.

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