Ross Brymer reports on Acas guidance on disciplinary and grievance procedures during Covid-19.
Employers need to consider whether it is still fair and reasonable to commence or continue disciplinary or grievance proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic. Acas has therefore issued guidance to help employers determine what will be considered fair and reasonable whilst social distancing and lockdown measures are in place.
If an employee is currently on furlough, they can still take part in disciplinary or grievance proceedings providing they do so voluntarily. During these uncertain times employers should ensure that all proceedings take place in line with current government public health guidance. It is important that consideration is given to the health and wellbeing of employees when determining if proceedings can take place. Employees should be given the opportunity to make representations on how they would like proceedings to be conducted and, once employers have made a decision, it should be clearly explained to everyone involved.
If employees are working from home, their individual circumstances and the urgency of the case should be analysed when deciding whether or not proceedings can take place. If proceedings are taking place virtually, all attendees must have access method of communication being used and reasonable adjustments should be available for anyone with a disability. Witness statements and other evidence must be visible to all parties throughout proceedings.
If employers decide to commence or continue proceedings it is vital the Acas codes of practice on disciplinary procedures and grievance procedures are followed; this includes allowing employees the right to be accompanied during the hearing, even if conducted virtually. There is no requirement for the hearing to be recorded however if the employer has a good reason for doing so then this must be done in line with data protection law. The employee’s right of appeal will still apply during proceedings at this time.
The time limits for bringing a claim in the employment tribunal remain unchanged during the coronavirus pandemic, this is 6 months for claims relating to redundancy or equal pay and 3 months less 1 day for all other claims.