Carlisle Council ban on job evaluation score grievances may deter other complaints

Carlisle City Council’s decision not to allow employees to lodge a grievance against job evaluation scores, which affect levels of pay, could serve to ‘block off’ staff from making the decision to bring forward a grievance on a separate matter in the future, one lawyer has suggested.

All councils are required to carry out job evaluation exercises to ensure equal pay. But managers at Carlisle City Council were instructed by the head of personnel to threaten employees with disciplinary action, should they lodge a grievance on the grounds that they are simply not happy with their score.

Even though the council has a process in place for employees to channel issues with their job evaluation score, managers were sent an e-mail from the head of personnel stating that situations where negligence, such as the behaviour or actions of a manager, were the only conditions under which employees could raise a formal grievance on the issue.

Peter Norbury, partner at Eversheds, explained: “Employees should have the opportunity to question and challenge decisions, and the employer in turn has a commitment to look into them and treat them on their merits. In a modern employment environment, the whole point is that you should not block off people making legitimate grievances.”

Yet the council claims that it has not sent the wrong message to staff, and that only employees trying to raise grievances against their job evaluation score have been discouraged.

Jason Gooding, deputy chief executive at the council, said: “I think it would put people off pursuing a job evaluation grievance, which should be done through the appeal process. I don’t think it would put people off pursuing a genuine grievance.”

The primary concern for the council was having to deal with a large number of grievances related to job evaluation scores, which it claimed had the potential to become a large workload.

“We cannot have a situation where employees lodge a grievance just because they think their [job evaluation] score is wrong,” Gooding said. “If they think their score was wrong because they think their manager misrepresented them, they may have a grievance and we would investigate that.”

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