Acas has issued new guidance for employers on how to conduct disciplinary and grievance procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.
The guidance reminds employers that the law and Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures still apply during the pandemic. Therefore, employers need to decide whether it would still be fair and reasonable to carry on with or start a disciplinary or grievance procedure while:
- people are on furlough because of coronavirus;
- following social distancing and other public health guidelines, if individuals are in the workplace; or
- people are working from home, and the procedure would have to be carried out remotely.
The new guidance can be found here.
The following key points should be noted:
- An employee can still raise a grievance if they’re working from home or are on furlough. The employer must consider whether they can carry out a fair grievance procedure.
- Someone on furlough can take part in a disciplinary or grievance investigation or hearing, as long as the individual is participating voluntarily, and the investigation/hearing takes place in line with current public health guidance.
- When deciding whether a disciplinary or grievance procedure should go ahead, employers should give careful consideration to the health and wellbeing of employees. It may be helpful for the employer to talk through the options with everyone involved before making a decision whether or not to proceed, and once the employer has decided they should explain the decision to those involved to ensure everyone is clear about what has been agreed and why.
- If all those involved in the procedure are still going to the workplace, the employer should consider whether the procedure can be carried out in line with public health guidelines – e.g., whether interviews and meetings can be held in a place that safely allows for social distancing as well as privacy.
- If some or all of those involved in the procedure are working at home or on furlough, the employer will need to consider the individual circumstances and sensitivity of the case (e.g. 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) and whether anyone involved has a reasonable objection to the procedure going ahead at this time.
- Employers should bear in mind that going ahead with a procedure at this time might mean having to use video meetings for any investigation interviews and hearings, and employers should consider potential issues arising from this, for example whether everyone involved has access to the technology needed for video meetings, or whether anyone involved has any disability that might affect their ability to use video technology.
Employers should ensure they familiarise themselves with the updated guidance, and take steps to ensure that any disciplinary or grievance procedures conducted during the coronavirus pandemic are as fair as possible.
For advice on conducting disciplinary or grievance procedures, please contact a member of the Employment Team.