The impact of coronavirus on disciplinary and grievance procedures

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We’ve already seen the huge impact coronavirus has had on employment. From home working to furlough and employers making tough decisions about their business, it’s been a testing few weeks. For those who continue to work, workplace issues and concerns aren’t always left at the office desk. So how do disciplinary and grievance procedures work outside of our usual working environments?

Do disciplinary and grievance procedures still apply during Covid-19?

According to the Acas Code of Practice, these procedures still apply during this time of social distancing and lockdown.

It’s an employer’s responsibility to decide if it’s fair and reasonable to resume or start a disciplinary or grievance procedure while employees are on furlough, are following public health guidelines whilst in the workplace, or are working from home. However, we consider the employer would be at risk of criticism if they delay disciplinary or grievance procedures.

FAQs | Employment law during coronavirus

How can an employee raise a grievance whilst working from home?

An employee can still raise a grievance, whether working from home or on furlough. They should contact their HR representative and follow the procedure as normal, albeit remotely. Employees, whether working or on furlough, can also still take part in disciplinary or grievance hearings as long as it takes place in line with current public health guidance.

How does an employer decide if disciplinary or grievance procedures should go ahead?

Any procedures must be carried out in a way that follows public health guidelines around social distancing and closures of workplaces.

It’s important that employers consider the extra stress employees are facing during this time, and give extra thought to the health and well-being of workers when deciding how to proceed.

If the workplace is still open and all those involved are still going in to work, the employer should consider whether discussions can be carried out in line with public health guidelines. For example, are meeting rooms big enough to allow the two metre distance between individuals?

If employees are working from home, an employer should consider whether the case needs to be dealt with urgently or if would be better dealt with once people return to the workplace. Employers should also check with the individuals involved that they are happy to proceed during this time.

Consider the practicalities

Pursuing disciplinary and grievance procedures remotely will involve video meetings for any investigation interviews and hearings. An employer should consider if this can be done in a fair way.

Key considerations include:

  • Whether the individuals involved have adequate access to technology
  • Whether adjustments are needed for those with disability or accessibility issues
  • During a hearing, can any witness statements or other evidence be seen clearly by everyone involved?
  • Is it possible to fairly assess and question evidence given by people interviewed in a video meeting?
  • Is any evidence needed for an investigation or hearing readily available?
  • Can an employee’s right to be accompanied during a hearing still be fulfilled?

Further information

Our specialist employment lawyers can assist both employees and employers with workplace disputes and help you to reach a resolution. For advice on disciplinary hearings, grievances or any other employment issue, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.


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