Employment news

Acas issues guidance on handling disciplinary and grievance cases during the coronavirus pandemic

Acas has produced new guidance for handling disciplinary and grievance cases during the coronavirus pandemic taking into account whether the employee is furloughed, working from home or continuing to attend the workplace. https://www.acas.org.uk/disciplinary-grievance-procedures-during-coronavirus

The guidance identifies the factors an employer should consider before using video technology for investigation interviews and hearings to ensure these are conducted in a fair and reasonable way. Such factors include access to the technology, disability and reasonable adjustment issues, opportunity for the employee to see the evidence (witness statements, records etc.) and the right to be accompanied at video interviews.

On this latter point, as the guidance identifies, the right for an employee to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing still applies in the same way, even though the procedure is being carried out remotely. The same should also apply to investigation interviews. B3sixty has experience of including representatives/companions in video conference disciplinary and grievance investigation interviews. Similarly, we make provision for notetakers.

In B3sixty’s view, Acas is also right to note that not everyone will have the necessary equipment to take part in video interviews; and even if they do, when working from home or furloughed, privacy could be an issue for an employee.

The Acas guidance is perhaps rather cautious. It correctly states that ‘employers should give careful consideration to the health and wellbeing of employees when deciding whether and how to proceed’, and that employers should consider ‘if anyone involved has a reasonable objection to the procedure going ahead at this time’.

However, B3sixty considers that this should not imply a right of veto by an employee: unless there are specific health and well-being issues. Most cases are likely to have better outcomes if they are dealt with promptly rather than waiting for a return to the workplace at some unspecified date in the future.

With this slight caveat, the recent Acas guidance should prove useful to employers and investigators alike during the current pandemic.