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I’ve been effectively acting up in managing a sub-team for the last 18 months, basically to take some of the work off my boss. I got a responsibility allowance for this, which was then formalised in my salary, but no formal contract change was made as it wasn’t a defined position. There is now to be a restructure and the management roles are being formalised and put up a grade. I applied, but didn’t get an interview. There have been no problems with my performance, as shown by positive appraisals. My manager has not been involved in the recruitment. I am basically being shut out of being able to interview for my own job. I am therefore effectively being demoted, but not due to any failure in performance. I am told I can stay on the same salary, which is good, but not enough to make up for the effective drop in seniority. I’m not prepared to stay somewhere I have no prospects, but think I’ll struggle to find anywhere so accommodating around school etc. Do I have any grounds to complain?
The decision not to interview you for the role is currently unclear and does seem odd, given that you have been performing the duties for some time now without any concerns being raised about your performance. I see that the job is graded at a level above your current role – I am assuming there is no new obligation or skill required that you have not had to demonstrate in your role in the last 18 months?
The law protects employees from being treated less favourably due to their part-time status or because they have asserted their legal right to request flexible working. So if the real reason for not interviewing you is because you work part time or have asserted your right to request flexible working, this would constitute less favourable treatment. If you have not been selected because you have childcare responsibilities, then this may also be discriminatory.
However, direct evidence of the real reason is always difficult and so a starting point is to ask the business the direct question why your application has been rejected. Say that you have been doing the job without criticism for 18 months, with positive appraisals and that you have experience in the role, whereas those without children and/or flexible working who do not have that experience have been invited for interview and given the job.
If the business says the reason is the quality of your application ask them to clarify the actual issues in the application form, explain any mitigating factors (e.g. health conditions or if you were relying on your manager’s guidance who is now not involved in the process) and ask them to revisit the decision given that you have been performing the job without any issues for a long time now. Make the point that an HR driven administrative process should never replace actual evidence of your performance in the role.
If you are granted an interview, I suggest you ask for guidance from your manager and/or HR about the format of the interview process and how best to prepare for it.
If you are not granted an interview, you could raise a formal grievance through HR. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you could go to ACAS and ask them to try and resolve the issue through early conciliation and if this does not work, bring an employment tribunal claim. You do not have to leave your role to do this. However, I suggest you take legal advice if you are contemplating this.
You could also submit a subject access request to the business, which requires them to provide you with all documents (including emails) containing your personal data. There are limits to what they must provide but it might be a useful way of finding out the rationale for not selecting your application if your employer is very vague or refuses to engage with your concerns.