Handling formal meetings during the coronavirus pandemic

Breathing Space’s Senior HR Business Partner Mandy Barstow offers some great guidance on how to handle formal meetings during the pandemic.

During the coronavirus pandemic, any formal procedure should be carried out in a way that follows public health guidelines around social distancing.

Procedures must still be taken forward without unreasonable delay.

Employers should try to find a safe, fair and reasonable way to go ahead with procedures.

The employer should talk through the options with everyone involved before deciding how to proceed. This includes:

  • the employee involved in the procedure
  • the employee’s representative or companion if there is one
  • any other people involved, for example the manager chairing the meeting or witnesses who may need to attend

If the workplace is open

If all those involved in the procedure can go to the workplace, the employer should firstly consider whether a face-to-face hearing can be safely arranged.

If the employer goes ahead with a face-to-face meeting, it’s important that the employee’s chosen companion can also attend the meeting in person if the employee wishes.

If a face-to-face meeting cannot be safely arranged, or if anyone has another reasonable objection to holding the meeting in person, it should be considered whether it’s possible to carry out the procedure remotely in a fair way.

Carrying out a procedure remotely

Video meetings may need to be used for any investigation interviews and hearings if a procedure is carried out remotely, as long as the procedure is still fair and reasonable.

It’s important to consider if:

  • everyone involved has access to the technology needed for video meetings, for example the necessary equipment and internet connection
  • anyone involved has any disability or other accessibility issues that might affect their ability to use video technology, and whether any reasonable adjustments might be needed
  • it’s possible to get hold of all the evidence needed for the investigation or hearing, for example records or files that are kept in the office
  • any witness statements or other evidence can be seen clearly by everyone involved during an interview or hearing and provided in advance where appropriate
  • it will be possible to fairly assess and question evidence given by people interviewed during a video meeting
  • it’s possible for the person under a disciplinary investigation or who raised a grievance to be fairly accompanied during the hearing

Disciplinary or grievance meetings held by video may be digitally recorded with the agreement of everyone involved.

 

The right to be accompanied

The right for an employee to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing still applies. The employee’s chosen companion must be able to attend the hearing and fully participate in it.

The employer should talk to the individual and their companion to understand their circumstances and any concerns they may have about the procedure. For example, the employee and their companion might prefer a face-to-face meeting if the issue raised by a grievance is very serious, or if a disciplinary hearing might result in the employee’s dismissal.

It’s also important to consider the availability of an employee’s companion might be more limited than usual. For example, they may have more caring responsibilities or have difficulties travelling.

 If you need any further advice, a member of our team would be happy to help you.  Contact admin@breathingspacehr.co.uk or call  0113 426 7735