If an employee does not raise a personal grievance within 90 days they lose the right to bring a claim unless the Employment Relations Authority finds exceptional circumstances justifying allowing more time to raise it.

An employee may raise a personal grievance with their employer for a number of reasons, including if the employee has been unjustifiably dismissed or unfairly disadvantaged.

The 90-day period begins on the date the action alleged to be a personal grievance occurred, or came to the attention of the employee (whichever was later).

In order to raise a personal grievance the employee must make the employer aware of it, or take reasonable steps to raise it.

If the employee does not raise the personal grievance within the 90-day period then he or she may only do so with consent from the ERA, or with the permission of the employer.

There are limited circumstances where the ERA would allow a personal grievance to be raised out of time.

In one recent case, an employer demanded that the employee provide the employer with his bank card and pin number so that the employer could “pay wages”. Over an 18-month period, the employer withdrew over $20,000 from the employee’s bank account.

The employee sought to raise a personal grievance by sending the employer a letter that referred to “employment grievances”, but the letter did not specify the issues which the employee wanted the employer to address.

The ERA said that the employee failed to raise a personal grievance because of the unclear language used. However, it then said that it had no real option other than to conclude that there were exceptional circumstances, because of the behaviour of the employer.

Other exceptional circumstances might include, for example, where the employee’s health is so badly affected that they are incapable of raising the personal grievance in time.

It is very difficult to meet the threshold of ‘exceptional circumstances’ which justifies raising a personal grievance out of time.

The case above is one where the ERA considered extraordinary circumstances clearly existed because the employer was illegally taking money from the employee.

An employee should raise any personal grievance with the employer within the 90-day time frame by using straight-forward and direct language that tells the employer what the grievance is, and what the employee wants done to resolve it.

There is a range of remedies available to the employer. These can include legal remedies such as compensation, payment for lost wages or reinstatement, and can include non-legal remedies such as an apology or, where possible, reassigning the employee’s duties.

An employee who wishes to raise a personal grievance should seek assistance so that they are aware of the available remedies, and can then make clear to the employer what their preferred outcome is.

Firms like Rainey Collins provide an excellent service for such introductory assistance via their fixed-price Initial Consultations.

Ben Ruback

Employment lawyer