Acas publishes guidance on the conduct of disciplinary and grievance procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic


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Acas has published guidance on the conduct of disciplinary and grievance procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The guidance makes it clear that the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures will still continue to apply.

The Acas guidance states that there's nothing to stop disciplinary and grievance hearings going ahead while employees are on furlough, working from home, or when following social distancing guidelines at work.   However, in some cases employers should proceed with caution.
In each instance the employer will have to give consideration to whether it is fair and reasonable to proceed. For those on furlough participation in the disciplinary or grievance hearing has to be voluntary and has to take place in line with current public health guidance. The Acas guidance stresses that careful consideration should be given to the health and wellbeing of employees before deciding to proceed as it may well be that they're facing other stressful circumstances during this time.

For those still in the workplace social distancing and the need for privacy will be concerns that the employer will have to deal with and try to resolve.

Where employees are working from home the question to ask is does the disciplinary or grievance need to be dealt with urgently or could it be dealt with fairly when the employee returns.  Any "reasonable objections" to the procedure going ahead at this time will have to be taken into account.

If the individual is working from home then there may be a need for video meetings for investigations, interviews and hearings. In order for this to happen there must be access to technology.  The issue of reasonable adjustments may need to be considered if a disability makes it difficult for an individual to use video technology, and it must be possible to fairly assess and question evidence given by people interviewed in a video meeting.

The right to be accompanied will still apply even if the procedure is being carried out remotely. There will be a need for flexibility as the availability of the chosen companion might be more limited than usual (they may have caring responsibilities) so the employer should consider if a delay of more than 5 days is reasonable in the circumstances. If the chosen companion is someone on furlough then they will be able to attend the hearing as long as they are doing so voluntarily.
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