Scrolling news:

Legal Corner: Dealing with disciplinary issues and grievances during a pandemic

22nd May 2020
Legal Corner: Dealing with disciplinary issues and grievances during a pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has presented a multitude of issues of employers and employees – dealing with shutdowns, furloughs, social distancing – and of course the significant economic impact of all these measures.

Much has already been written about all of those issues, which does not need to be repeated.

The focus of this article will be on how disciplinary and grievance issues can still be continued during this time; ACAS has just issued new guidance to assist both employers and employees navigate this area – because the reality is that whilst it may be possible to put some matters on hold for a short period, that might not always be reasonable, nor might that be a viable option on a longer-term basis.

In addition, fresh disciplinary and grievance issues may well arise during these unusual times!

The most important question for an employer to consider is whether it is fair and reasonable to commence or continue with, proceedings given their particular circumstances.

The usual principles and the ACAS code will continue to apply. If fairness can be maintained, then it is perfectly appropriate to proceed.

If not, it may be that matters will have to be paused. So – what are the key things to be aware of?

1. People on furlough can still take part in proceedings – whether they are the object of them (those under investigation or those raising grievances) or whether they are assisting in the process (such as those who are witnesses, note-takers, or companions).

However, their participation must be voluntary and in line with public health guidelines.

2. If people are working from home, an employer needs to consider if a procedure can still be carried out in a fair and reasonable way. If video meetings will be required:

a. Can everyone access the required technology?

b. Are there any disability or access issues which might affect video usage?

c. Will everyone have clear access to the documents that will be referred to?

d. Will it be possible to fairly assess and question the evidence which is given via video link?

3. Employees still have the right to be accompanied to a disciplinary or grievance hearing, even if they are being questioned via video link. This means that their companion must still be able to put the employee’s case across, respond to any questions on behalf of the employee and – most significantly in a video meeting context – be able to talk to the employee privately at any point.

We are of course in unchartered territory and may well have to grapple with these issues for some time to come.

What is ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ may also evolve over time. For an employer, ensuring that those issues which need to be addressed without delay are done in a safe and fair method is paramount. For an employee, focus on ensuring that you are fully able to take part in the proceedings and have an opportunity to air your views.

If you have concerns about any process being undertaken, don’t stay silent – raise them promptly, so that they can be considered and there is the chance for amendments to be made.

Safia Tharoo
Barrister, 40 Bedford Row, London

Leave a Comment

What is 3 + 12 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

Latest Tweets