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I work in the UK for a big US company. My former manager is putting pressure on my current manager to get me fired. This didn't happen... for months, but the pressure is constant, and there are frequent incidents where my former manager sends written complaints about nothing.

I tried to go to HR. HR refuses to meet me, I need to speak with my manager. My manager puts me in a coaching programme for weeks. HR does not talk to me until I am out of the coaching programme. I try again to go to HR. HR refuses to meet me, I need to speak with my manager. and the cycle repeats.

This happened multiple times.

I want HR to do something about my former manager's behaviour, because excluding these incidents I have no real issues with my manager. But every now and them, my former manager will take the chance to make him freak out.

So my question is: as a UK employee, do I have a right to meet HR and get help?

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  • 10
    are you in a union?
    – Kilisi
    Feb 2 at 22:04
  • no, I am not...
    – Monoandale
    Feb 2 at 22:05
  • 1
  • 3
    "my former manager sends written complaints about nothing" — does your current manager agree with you that these complaints are about "nothing"? Feb 3 at 11:58
67

You do not have the right to speak to HR. HR is not your friend, don't treat them like one.

HR is here to protect the company, not you. They will happily act like your friend, write down everything you say, and then report it to your old manager. Are you still excited to talk to HR?

My former manager is putting pressure on my current manager to get me fired.

If you have any proof of this make sure to make a copy of it and keep it somewhere safe, and offsite

I tried to go to HR. HR refuses to meet me

Save any and all correspondence with HR. Including that you've completed coaching programs somewhere safe, and offsite

Why is your previous manager working so hard to get you fired? Can you get any communication trails between your old and new manager? If you can keep them somewhere safe, and offsite

Do you believe your old manager is retaliating against you? If you suspect so, you should contact HR 1 more time. Do the following

  1. BCC your personal email address. Make sure you have access to this email trail offsite.

  2. Say you suspect your old manager of retaliation. Be sure to use the word retaliation. Any half-decent HR department will take notice (in the US and the UK). The company as a whole could be liable if they allow the old manager to continue retaliating against you.

  3. Save what HR says somewhere safe, offsite

While not part of the original question, it's also likely time to start looking for a new job.

You may not succeed in getting protection from HR. Even if you succeed, you've likely been taken out of the running for raises, promotions, and bonuses for the year due to the back-and-forth.

HR being involved is usually a sign to get out. Remember HR protects the company's interest, not yours. That's usually seen as management interest. Use this to negotiate a severance package once you quit.

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    This is perfect advice and gets right to the point - you should document everything, ensuring you can prove that you've recognized your former manager seems to have an irrational issue with you and you are taking steps to attempt to understand why, and to address it, and are getting nowhere. HR is a bad idea, get a lawyer and see what you can do to protect yourself. HR will cover the company's butt, not yours, and a manager is likely more.... maybe not 'important', but difficult to replace
    – schizoid04
    Feb 2 at 23:51
  • 2
    In the UK this is a wrong answer all companies have to have a grievance procedure other wise they would lose at tribuneral - check your company hand book Feb 5 at 22:25
  • 1
    You have the right to submit a written grievance (gov.uk/raise-grievance-at-work). As usual, HR will share this grievance with your old boss. Feb 6 at 18:13
34

You do not have a right to speak to HR per se.

However, you do have (as does every other employee in the UK), the right to be treated fairly at work. If you believe you are not being treated fairly at work, you have the right to raise a complaint about the treatment. UK companies (de facto) must have a procedure for dealing with complaints, and if the complaint cannot be resolved informally resolved in a reasonably sized company that will almost certainly involve HR.

Do not expect it to be a friendly conversation with HR if you make a formal complaint though - it is quite probably you will end up on gardening leave, and then negotiating an exit from your job.

You would be highly advised to talk to Citizen's Advice and/or an employment lawyer here.

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    +1 for Citizens' Advice Bureau. They offer excellent employment law advice. Feb 2 at 22:50
10

You may want to look at this Wikipedia page, which seems to describe what you're going through. I am not a lawyer and you may want to talk to one before proceeding, but based on this you seem to have a bunch of the telltale signs of Constructive Dismissal:

In order to avoid such a breach "[a]n employer must not, without reasonable or proper cause, conduct himself in a manner calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between the employer and the employee."

Putting you repeatedly in "coaching programme"s would, to me, definitely erode the trust between myself and my employer, at the very least. The Wiki article continues:

Constructive dismissal is typically caused by:
<...>

  • breach of contract in the form of bullying, e.g.:
    ignoring complaints

This sounds like what's going on, you're trying to complain about another employee who is harassing you, and the company is ignoring those complaints.

You should raise this issue with a lawyer and see what steps you should take to position yourself the best in this case.

2

As others pointed out here, HR is protecting the company based on policies. If you want them to go into your favor, then you need to show something they have to react on to protect the company from a possible lawsuit or fine. For example, if you have a clear message that they want to fire you because of your gender, then that is something HR will have to react and protect the company from.

However, if you just went over there and told them you believe your manager is trying to get you fired because he/she is making you do impossible tasks or putting a huge workload on you, then HR will simply side with the manager and just assume that you're incompetent as they put it.

With that said, I think your best bet is to polish up your resume and then find a new job. It sounds like you're in a sinking ship and at this point, you have some wiggle room because you know there's pressure on you to leave and they're giving you some time. It's best to take that now than wait at the worst possible second. Unless you're saving up good money and have some flexible breathing room to shift around, I don't think that is a wise course of action.

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  • In the UK there is such a thing as constructive dismissal, which is where an employee is forced to leave their job against their will. Harrassment and bullying are covered under this, so it's in HR's interest to put a stop to anything that could be construed as constructive dismissal. I'm no lawyer, so don't know if the previous managers behaviour falls into that category, but it's something HR should really be investigating.
    – scaryclam
    Feb 4 at 2:09
1

Philip Kendall 's answer is right, but I want to add more information that won't go in a comment.

There are "magic" words you can use to get HRs attention. Try saying you want to report "workplace harassment". These words are magic because HR has a duty to deal with workplace harassment cases and will be in trouble if they don't. Also don't wait until you get the nonexistent meeting to put your case. Write down the behaviour you have been experiencing and send it to them. Keep a record of what you sent. Use the magic words. This means that in any future inquiry/lawsuit HR cannot say "We didn't know about this" and they will be in trouble if they don't act.

Make sure you keep a detailed record of everything that has happened to you, and everything that happens from now on. Keep the records where you can get at them if you were suddenly fired and denied access to anything at work. Keep copies of emails and other correspondance away from work.

But before you talk to HR talk to your current boss. He may be as upset with this pressure as you. Also, with your bosses agreement, talk to your bosses boss.

Talking to a Citizens Advice is excellent, and maybe a lawyer. Definitely a union or professional organization if you have one.

-5

Time to find another job!! Whew!

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    We prefer complete answers with useful information. Feb 4 at 4:08

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