Holding Disciplinary Procedures Remotely

Lockdown or Remote Working. The HR world must go on! – Anna Craig, Managing Consultant

Conducting a disciplinary hearing when not all those involved in the process are based in the same location or office can be challenging at the best of times but what do we do if a hearing needs to be held during lockdown? Can it go on? Will it be fair?

Acas states that the law and their Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures still applies during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. These procedures are still valid while social distancing and lockdown measures are in place.

An employer must decide if it is fair and reasonable to continue with the disciplinary or grievance procedure. Consideration must be given to the situation in hand. Is the employee placed on furlough? They can still take part in an investigation or hearing as long as they agree and it is voluntary.

How to recognise social distancing and other public health guidelines if still in the workplace. As along as all social distancing guidelines are followed and the meeting can be held in privacy, there is no reason why the investigation or hearing should not go ahead.

What if employees are working from home, how can the hearing be carried out? Discussions need to be held to decide if it can be carried out in a fair way. Has everyone involved got access to video technology? Can any reasonable adjustments be made where any employees involved may have a disability? Can all evidence be accessed which may be kept in files within the office? Can statements and all evidence be clearly seen by all parties?

Once consideration has been given to the above points and logistics ironed out the process should be able to continue allowing for some flexibility. You may wish to agree a time prior to the hearing date to connect with the employee to do a technical check. That way both parties can focus on the situation at hand during the hearing rather than the subject or evidence being lost due technical difficulties.

If using a tool such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or Zoom it allows you to have additional attendees such as note takers or a companion for the employee, which must still be offered.

Assuming careful consideration has be given to the situation to ensure it remains a fair process for all involved then the investigation and hearing can commence. Just be sure to follow all Acas procedures as this continue to be a focus of any tribunal!

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