Acas have published new guidance on dealing with disciplinaries and grievances during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide cautious guidance whilst we are in lock down and whilst the social distancing measures remain in place. https://www.acas.org.uk/disciplinary-grievance-procedures-during-coronavirus?mc_cid=c204b8082e&mc_eid=81030767ef
It reminds employers that they have to consider whether they would be acting fairly and reasonably starting or continuing a disciplinary or grievance process whilst people are on furlough, working from home and/or complying with social distancing.
It may not, in cases short of gross or serious misconduct be fair and reasonable especially if you are going to be hindered from carrying out a proper investigation, but in cases of grievances it may be, especially if someone’s reputation is at stake. You owe the complained about person a duty of care as well as the complaining person. You will need to consider each matter on a case by case basis and should document your reasons and notify the parties involved as to why action is not being taken immediately if that is the case. Acas makes it clear that employers should consider the mental wellbeing of those involved.
Acas confirms that someone on furlough can still take part in a disciplinary or grievance procedure so long as they are doing so voluntarily and social distancing guidance is being adhered to.
Proceeding with a procedure can be done remotely via telephone or video conferencing – it is important to still however consider confidentiality and whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made for anyone who has a disability or other accessibility issues.
Those employees who have the right to be accompanied – still have the right to be accompanied and so it is essential that any video conference or telephone conference are set up to allow that to happen. Remember the employee has the right to their chosen companion (so long as they are an employee or trade union representative) and in current circumstances they may not be available straight away – in such a case meetings may have to be postponed.
If you want to record a video or telephone conference you should seek the consent of all those involved.
The same considerations apply to any appeal hearings as well.