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Thumbs up, or thumbs down?

A few weeks ago, the Guardian reported that the employees of Sports Direct were being asked to press a sad or happy emoji when they clock in to work.

Sports Direct has introduced a staff survey system and when employees clock into work they are being asked to press a touchpad featuring a happy 🙂 or sad 😭 face emoji to indicate whether they are satisfied with working conditions.  Sports Direct have said that this is a way in which they can allow their staff to provide feedback.

However, the introduction has brought some criticism from the union, Unite, who say that the use of fingerprint recognition technology in a survey such as this means that grievances are unlikely to be raised.  This is because if the employees press the sad face, then they are being asked whether they are sure about their decision and if they press it again they can then be called in by managers to discuss why they did so.

My own view is that I think the system is a good idea where the sad emoji is pressed where someone is unhappy about a minor issue that has happened the previous day.  However, as all employers know, grievances, in the most part, are raised by employees when they are genuinely unhappy and they feel that they have been hard done to.  Most employees will only raise a grievance as a last resort and I would question whether, or not, the touch on a sad face is going to be particularly helpful where an employee is unhappy about the way in which they have been treated by a particular line manager or whether the grievance is based on discrimination whether that be inappropriate comments being made on the basis of sex or on account of a disability by another employee.

Regardless of your view on the introduction of Sports Directs’ emoji system, employers need to bear in mind that in terms of the Employment Rights Act 1996, they are obliged to provide their employees with a safe system of redress.  That means that employees need to know what an employer’s procedure is if they want to raise an issue about how they are being treated at work.

Therefore, all employers should have a written grievance procedure in place.

Remember that an unresolved grievance can mean that an employer is facing a claim for constructive unfair dismissal on the basis an employee has resigned because they have failed to deal with their grievance correctly.  In addition, many grievances are based on one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, whether that be sex, sexual discrimination, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, race, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity leave, gender reassignment and disability.  If grievances are raised on the basis of any of these protected characteristics then employers are potentially facing a tribunal claim for discrimination.  Employers should also remember that the right to raise a claim under the Equality Act applies from the first day of their employment.  Therefore, it is important that employers take steps to investigate these grievances properly and fairly.

If you are unsure about whether or not your grievance procedure is adequate to protect you against any claims or if you require any guidance on dealing with grievances, then please contact me by email jks@businesslaw.co.uk or by telephone on 01383 721 621.

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