Dealing with Problems at Work

dealing with problems at work


Addressing workplace issues promptly and effectively is essential for maintaining a positive and productive work environment.


A. Dealing with a Problem Raised by an Employee


When an employee raises a problem, employers should handle it promptly and sensitively to prevent the matter from escalating into a formal grievance.
Initial responses should be supportive, acknowledging the issue and assuring the employee that it will be investigated.


a. Investigation

Employers should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation, gathering all relevant information and evidence. Confidentiality must be maintained throughout the process to protect the employee’s privacy. Employers should document all steps taken during the investigation to ensure transparency and accountability.


b. Share Findings

Once the investigation is complete, the employer should communicate the findings to the employee and discuss any proposed actions to resolve the issue. If the problem requires changes in workplace policies or procedures, employers should implement these changes promptly and inform all relevant staff.

Follow-up meetings with the employee can help ensure the issue has been resolved satisfactorily and that no further problems have arisen.


B. Mediation at Work


Mediation is a valuable tool for resolving workplace conflicts and disputes. Employers should establish clear guidelines for when and how mediation can be utilised, ensuring it is an accessible option for all employees.

Confidentiality is paramount in mediation. Employers must ensure that all discussions and agreements made during mediation are kept confidential, encouraging open and honest communication.


a. Initiating Mediation

Employers should provide information on mediation processes and how employees can request mediation. When a conflict arises, employers should consider mediation as an early intervention to prevent escalation.

Participation in mediation should be voluntary for all parties. Employers should not coerce employees into mediation but rather encourage it as a beneficial approach to resolving conflicts.


b. Selecting a Mediator

The mediator should be an impartial and trained professional, either from within the organisation or an external specialist. The mediator’s role is to facilitate a constructive dialogue between the parties, helping them to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.


c. Follow-Up

After mediation, employers should follow up with the parties involved to ensure that the agreement reached is implemented and effective. Continuous support may be necessary to maintain the resolution.


C. Discrimination and Bullying


Discrimination and bullying are serious issues that can negatively impact employee wellbeing and workplace culture. Employers have a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to prevent. This includes creating and maintaining a work environment where all employees are treated fairly and with respect, regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.


a. Anti-Discrimination Policies

Employers must implement clear anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies, communicating them to all employees.

These policies should outline unacceptable behaviours and the consequences of engaging in such actions.


b. Training

Regular training sessions should be conducted to educate employees about discrimination, bullying, and the importance of a respectful workplace. This helps in fostering an inclusive culture and ensures employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.


c. Reporting and Investigation

Employers should establish a straightforward process for reporting discrimination and bullying, and employees who experience discrimination or bullying should report this to their employer immediately.

All complaints must be taken seriously and investigated promptly and impartially. Confidentiality should be maintained throughout the process to protect the complainant.


D. Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures


Employers must establish clear disciplinary and grievance procedures to handle workplace issues fairly and consistently. These procedures should comply with the guidelines set out by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Code of Practice.


a. Disciplinary Procedures

Employers should outline the standards of conduct and performance expected from employees. When these standards are not met, a structured disciplinary process should be followed, including a formal investigation, a disciplinary hearing, and the right to appeal. The process must be fair, impartial, and documented, ensuring that employees are given the opportunity to respond to any allegations.


b. Grievance Procedures

Employees should have a clear process for raising concerns or complaints about workplace issues. The grievance procedure should include steps for submitting a grievance, an investigation, and a formal meeting to discuss the issue. Employers must address grievances promptly, maintaining confidentiality and providing a right to appeal if the employee is dissatisfied with the outcome.


E. Dismissals


Employers must follow strict legal procedures when dismissing an employee to ensure fairness and compliance with employment laws.


a. Fair Dismissal

A dismissal is considered fair if it is based on one of the following grounds: capability or qualifications, conduct, redundancy, statutory duty or restriction, or another substantial reason. Employers must provide evidence to support these grounds and follow a fair process, which includes proper investigation, documentation, and a disciplinary hearing where the employee can present their case.


b. Unfair Dismissal

Unfair dismissal occurs if the employer fails to follow fair procedures or if the reason for dismissal is not legally valid. Employees with at least two years of continuous service can claim unfair dismissal and may take their case to an employment tribunal.


c. Notice Periods

Employers must provide the appropriate notice period as specified in the employment contract or adhere to statutory minimum notice periods if the contract does not specify. This ensures employees have adequate time to find new employment.


d. Constructive Dismissal

Constructive dismissal occurs when an employee resigns due to the employer’s conduct, which has fundamentally breached the employment contract. Employers should address workplace issues promptly to avoid situations leading to constructive dismissal claims.


e. Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful dismissal occurs when an employer breaches the terms of an employee’s contract during the termination process. This typically involves failing to provide the required notice period or not adhering to the contractual procedures outlined in the employment agreement.


F. Whistleblowing at Work


Whistleblowing involves reporting wrongdoing or illegal activities within an organisation. Whistleblowers are protected by law from dismissal or other detrimental treatment related to their disclosure.

Employers are required to provide a safe environment for whistleblowers, adhering to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which protects employees from retaliation.


a. Creating Policies

Employers should establish clear whistleblowing policies that outline the procedures for reporting concerns, ensuring employees know how to raise issues confidentially and safely.


b. Protecting Whistleblowers

Employers must protect whistleblowers from any form of retaliation, including dismissal, demotion, or harassment. Ensuring confidentiality and taking immediate action to investigate reported concerns are crucial steps.


c. Investigating Reports

Employers should promptly investigate any whistleblowing reports, taking appropriate corrective actions if necessary. Transparent communication about the process and outcomes helps maintain trust.


G. Making a Claim to an Employment Tribunal


If attempts to resolve a problem with an employer are unsuccessful, employees may consider making a claim to an employment tribunal. This formal legal process involves presenting the case to an independent tribunal that will hear both sides and make a binding decision.

Employees should seek legal advice and gather all relevant evidence before proceeding with a claim.


H. Tailored Support for Your Organisation


Our employment law and HR experts work with employers to find practical solutions to challenges in their organisation. Tailored support includes guidance on managing workplace issues, developing effective policies, and implementing best practices to create a positive work environment. Employers can benefit from our expertise in addressing specific problems and enhancing overall workplace wellbeing.



Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing & Content Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.