ACAS have issued some guidance on handling disciplinary and grievance processes during the pandemic and we’ve summarised the key points for you below.  The full advice can be seen here:

Is it fair and reasonable to proceed?

The employer should decide if it is fair and reasonable to proceed with the disciplinary or grievance process during the pandemic, taking into account factors such as whether people are on leave, furloughed, or working from home. It is also suggested that those involved should be consulted and informed of the rationale behind the decision to proceed or not to proceed. The employer 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; and
  • if anyone involved has a reasonable objection to the procedure going ahead.

The process should be safe and in line with public health guidelines

Someone on furlough can still take part in grievance and disciplinary processes, for example to attend an investigation interview or a hearing, subject to them doing so voluntarily and in a way that is in line with public health guidelines. For example, where the workplace is still open, employers should consider whether interviews and

meetings can be held in a place that safely allows for social distancing as well as privacy.

Video meetings need to be assessed for clarity and fairness

Consideration should be given to whether video meetings can be used fairly for investigation interviews or hearings, taking into account factors such as whether:

  • those involved have access to the technology needed;
  • disabilities or other accessibility issues are present that might affect someone’s ability to use video technology and, if so, whether any reasonable adjustments might be needed;
  • any witness statements or other evidence can be seen clearly by everyone involved during a hearing;
  • it’s 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; and
  • it’s possible for the person under investigation or who raised a grievance to be accompanied during the hearing (or an investigation interview if the right applies).

We have been successfully conducting investigations remotely on behalf of public and private sector organisations over the past six weeks using video meetings (and the tried and tested telephone). We’ve found it has had very little impact on our ability to carry out investigations sensitively, effectively and efficiently and, in some cases where witnesses are geographically dispersed, it has actually speeded up the investigation process.

Whilst there might be other factors which impact on an employer’s ability to deal with disciplinary and grievance processes during the pandemic, this ACAS best practice guidance confirms that a requirement to conduct investigations and hearings remotely should not be a barrier per se.

Telephone:  +44 117 920 0137


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