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sarah99

Help needed in basic terms

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Hi, this is complicated but I need to find out if there is a way I can get my employer to disclose a "confidential" document to me. This document forms a major part of a grievance I had going through against my employer, which was rejected, but I have now appealed that decision.

 

A document was read out to staff, including me, earlier this year, but I am certain the content was not the same as that which my employer has now alleged. The current situation at work is making it difficult to get the member of staff who read out the document to support me.

 

I sent two emails to HR, asking to see this document, after my grievance was rejected on the grounds that the investigator - someone who works for the company - had seen the document and confirmed it contained words that left me with no grounds for dispute.

 

Both my emails were ignored until the day of the appeal hearing itself, when I was told I couldn't see the document because it was "confidential". Does the fact that the document was read out by my line manager to myself and six other staff members in the first place mean it was therefore NOT confidential? Also, during the grievance procedure, the investigator was apparently allowed to see it. Is that right, or is that allowed because it would have been in the employer's interest to reveal that "confidential" document to the investigator - but not me - if it contains what my employer is alleging it contains and therefore helps my employer's case?

 

I would like to know if document disclosure works like it does in court, where evidence must be disclosed to both sides during a grievance/appeal, or if I must wait for my case to reach the tribunal stage before it can be disclosed to me?

 

There seems little point in asking the other members of staff present at the time the document was read out to back me up, since the part of the document in question relates only to me and no one can remember its content. However, I remember clearly that the information my employer is claiming was contained in that document was not read out to me, because it would have concerned me in particular and I would have been listening even more closely.

 

I am also certain that the information in question did not exist in the document and was not read out because I questioned my line manager about the document's relevance to me at the time. Upon referring back to the document, my line manager could not give me an answer and asked a senior manager for an answer. I did not receive the answer from the senior manager until two months later - and did not once receive anything in writing to inform me of any changes which would affect me. In the rejection letter I received, the investigator contradicted themselves by saying that the answer I was given two months later was clearly stated in the document to start with.

 

As part of my appeal I have requested the document to be read out to me again, since I can't actually see it for myself because it is "confidential". I have also requested the right to ask the reader to repeat parts of it so that I may record what is read out. More than a month later, both email requests have failed to attract a response from HR or the appeal investigator.

 

Can anyone advise me on any laws or acts I could use to obtain this document? Or would I be forced to wait until the tribunal?

 

Also, is it right that an employer may not provide written confirmation of changes affecting an employee before those changes come into effect? Or even afterwards?

 

Many thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope someone can answer some of the above questions.

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Also, is it right that an employer may not provide written confirmation of changes affecting an employee before those changes come into effect? Or even afterwards?

 

No, if you are talking about changes to any of the terms and conditions contained in your contract of employment.

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I suspect there is no direct right to insist that this document is disclosed for an internal appeal - sadly.

 

Taken to extreme, this may mean your only option (if the matter is serious enough) is to resign and claim constructive dismissal. This is high risk as these cases are hard to prove. Even if you win you have no job and probably only fairly modest compensation.

 

If it went to a tribunal you would have a legal right to ask for the document to be disclosed. Even then, in the real world, the firm might "lose" it or risk disclosing a "modified" version. OK, if you could prove this and they got caught they would be in big trouble but the word is IF.


PLEASE NOTE:

 

I limit myself to responding to threads where I feel I have enough knowledge to make a useful contribution. My advice (and indeed any advice on this type of forum) should only be seen as a pointer to something you may wish to investigate further. Never act on any forum advice without confirmation from an accountable source.

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Hi, thanks Mariefab and Uncertain for both your comments. Yes, that's pretty much what I expected - that the company has me over a barrel and there's nothing I can do about it in a legal sense.

 

I have been in touch with a union official about this, and he said my case for tribunal wouldn't be very strong unless something major happened in my appeal. I have got to let him know the outcome and then he will advise me on whether the union would be prepared to fund a tribunal, because I'm in no position financially to take this on alone.

 

Yes, I have thought about my chances of an unfair dismissal case, but you're right, Uncertain, it would mean being unemployed and I can't afford to do that without some kind of immediate payoff.

 

It doesn't seem right that the law is against me on this one, in terms of trying to get the document in question disclosed to me. And I certainly wouldn't be surprised if a modified document was finally disclosed at the tribunal. However, if this was the case, I believe my own word of truth and the contradiction on the letter I was given rejecting my grievance gives me a strong moral case. But a strong moral case isn't the same as a strong legal one, I know.

 

It's a bad situation and one I am sure a lot of employees are experiencing at the moment - or probably do all the time. I have been incredibly stressed about it all for six months now, and I find it hard to understand how I can be such a model employee and be so good at my job (I have that in writing - I'm not just being big-headed!) yet still be treated like a muppet. It's a shame that all my hard work up until now has come to this. I am clearly naive and have a lot to learn about the world of employment.

 

I am doing my best to search for a new job, but I enjoy the work I do and feel I have found my calling. Also, my employer is basically the only one of its kind in my region, which means a relocation would be necessary to continue in the same line of work - something I don't want to do since I love where I live. But I am also not the kind of person who can let such an injustice go without fighting against it until the bitter end, which, while I remain in my current employment, is what I intend to do anyway. I will take it as far as I can take it within my financial constraints and as far as I can push my union to allow.

 

Oh well. Thank you both so much for answering my questions and it's great to be a bit more clearer about where I stand. I appreciate your quick responses greatly because it's been so tough to get straight answers from anyone up until now. I wish you all the best.

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Sorry! I meant constructive dismissal, not unfair dismissal!

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