Disciplinary and grievance procedures during the coronavirus pandemic
With social distancing and lockdown measures likely to go on for a little while longer, it raises many questions for employers in terms of how they deal with employment issues in the workplace.
Common questions such as, whether an employee can raise a grievance or how does an employer decide if a disciplinary or grievance procedure can go ahead are answered in the latest ACAS guide on dealing with workplace problems during the corona virus.
They comment that:
The law and Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures still apply during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This includes while social distancing and lockdown measures are in place.
The employer needs to decide if it would still be fair and reasonable to carry on with or start a disciplinary or grievance procedure while:
- people are on temporary leave because of coronavirus (on ‘furlough’)
- following social distancing and other public health guidelines, if they’re in the workplace
- people are working from home, and it would have to be carried out remotely
If an employee wants to raise a grievance
An employee can still raise a grievance if they’re working from home or are on furlough. The employer must consider if they can carry out a fair grievance procedure.
If someone’s on furlough
Someone on furlough can take part in a disciplinary or grievance investigation or hearing, including if they:
- are under investigation in a disciplinary procedure
- raised a grievance
- are chairing a disciplinary or grievance hearing
- are taking notes at a hearing or during an investigation interview
- are being interviewed as part of an investigation
- are a witness at a hearing
- are an employee’s companion for a hearing
This is as long as:
- they’re doing it out of their own choice (‘voluntarily’)
- it takes place in line with current public health guidance
Deciding if a disciplinary or grievance procedure can still go ahead
Any disciplinary or grievance procedure at this time must be carried out in a way that follows public health guidelines around social distancing and closure of certain business premises.
Going through a disciplinary or grievance procedure can be stressful in normal times, and employees might be facing other stressful circumstances at this time. Employers should give careful consideration to the health and wellbeing of employees when deciding whether and how to proceed at this time.
It can be helpful for the employer to talk through the options with everyone involved before making a decision whether or not to proceed.
Whether the employer decides to go ahead with the procedure or postpone it, they should explain their decision with those involved. This will help everyone to be clear about what has been agreed and why.
If the workplace is still open
If all those involved in the procedure are still going to the workplace (‘key workers’), the employer should consider whether the procedure can be carried out in line with public health guidelines.
For example, if interviews and meetings can be held in a place that safely allows for social distancing as well as privacy.
If people are working from home
If some or all of those involved in the procedure are working at home or on furlough, the employer will need to decide if the procedure can still be carried out in a fair and reasonable way. They should consider:
- the individual circumstances and sensitivity of the case, for example if it needs to be dealt with urgently, or if it would be dealt with more fairly when people are able to return to the workplace
- if anyone involved has a reasonable objection to the procedure going ahead at this time
Going ahead with a procedure at this time might mean having to use video meetings for any investigation interviews and hearings. The employer should consider if this can be done in a fair way, including if:
- everyone involved has access to the technology needed for video meetings, for example the necessary equipment and internet connection
- anyone involved has any disability or other accessibility issues that might affect their ability to use video technology, and whether any reasonable adjustmentsmight be needed
- any witness statements or other evidence can be seen clearly by everyone involved during the hearing
- it will be possible to fairly assess, and question evidence given by people interviewed in a video meeting
- it’s possible to get hold of all the evidence needed for the investigation or hearing, for example records or files that are kept in the office
- it’s possible for the person under a disciplinary investigation or who raised a grievance to be accompanied during the hearing
The full article can be found at https://www.acas.org.uk/disciplinary-grievance-procedures-during-coronavirus and follows on to look at guidance for employers on what they need to consider if they go ahead on a disciplinary or grievance procedure.