Advice for employers in dispute

It can be an awful shock. One minute everything is ticking over quite nicely and the next minute you get an employee going off sick with work related stress and/or a grievance or a letter of resignation. You had not seen it coming and feel both worried and upset. Then the employee lets it be known that they have taken advice and have made lots of notes. This makes it all feel much worse.


The important things to remember are as follows:

  1. Stay calm and stay in contact with your employee. Most issues can be resolved by speaking face to face. But listening is the most important thing here – even if you don’t agree. Do make a note of the meeting.
  2. If an employee is off sick with stress agree how you can communicate with them whilst they are off. Directly or via someone else. Obtain their permission for you to do this. Find out if anything is worrying them that you can investigate further. Understand that they may need extra support and understanding and can’t control how they are feeling.
  3. If you have a grievance or a letter of resignation try and meet them face to face. As soon as possible but not when you feel angry or upset. Be mindful that both documents are official records and if there is any claim or allegation in there you need to take it seriously and respond. Even if they verbally retract it. Get anything in writing as that is what will be relevant in a Tribunal situation.

The types of issues we have seen include:

  • A link with health problems or experiencing work-related stress
  • Allegations of bullying or harassment
  • Allegations of unfair treatment or discrimination
  • A feeling that they aren’t valued
  • A feeling that they have no future
  • A suggestion that things are not as they seem internally
  1. Take care to keep the matter as confidential as possible. No matter how outraged you are don’t share this unnecessarily as that can cause more issues. You can’t control what others say. You also have an obligation legally to keep the matter confidential. This includes sharing it with ex employees and anyone that does not have a clear managerial or professional interest.
  2. Be wary of venting your frustrations on email as your employee could make a Subject Access Request (SAR’s) and see everything you have written. If you want to vent do so verbally and to someone that is in the loop formally.
  3. It’s important not to take your employees action as a personal betrayal. Yes they may have worked with you for a long time but no matter how close you are, you are still their employer and that brings legal and statutory obligations to your door.
  4. Make notes of all conversations and acknowledge the resignation and/or the grievance. Follow your sickness policy if someone is off with stress and consider involving Occupational Health.
  5. Seek professional advice as necessary. This could include an HR Consultant, Employment lawyer, Occupational or Wellbeing practitioner.
  6. Do not ignore how you are feeling. Is this too much on top of everything else you are dealing with? Or can you cope with some self care and support.

For more information and advice please contact