Employers have had to respond to the unique challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic, and handling disciplinary procedures during lockdown is just one of them.
Companies have had to adjust quite rapidly to the current lockdown restrictions to enable employees to continue to work, sometimes from home and sometimes remaining within the work environment. This poses potential challenges in running disciplinary, performance and grievance procedures with the workforce. It is important to keep in mind that where possible the usual standards need to be applied to maintain policies and procedures to the high level we are used to.
With regards to all employees having the right to be accompanied at these hearings, that in itself poses some potential problems during lockdown, but not one that cannot be overcome. Face to face meetings are mainly untenable at present, but there is no reason why these could not be handled remotely, via Zoom or Skype etc, therefore including all attendees and supporting help.
Communication, structure and documentation are key, and should be handled with sensitivity at all times. Disciplinary procedures are stressful at the best of times, but in unprecedented times of health worries and uncertainty these feelings could escalate and it’s important to continue to be aware of mental health and well-being, not only for the employee but also the employer dealing with a different way of working.
Whilst an employer would probably prefer to avoid launching a disciplinary process during the lockdown it may prove necessary if there is suspected misconduct whilst an employee is working from home. We at Centric HR have dealt with various different cases over the last few months, ranging from data and security breaches to leaked information to a refusal to return to work from being furloughed.
You have the same duty of care to your staff during this COVID-19 pandemic as you do at any other time, and being performance tolerant is of upmost importance. This doesn’t mean letting standards slip of course, but could mean a different take on prioritising work loads and focusing on the key things that are a necessity and also being flexible on different work patterns and times.
Whilst we all face new challenges, we must remember that some of the old challenges, from managing complex disciplinary and grievance issues to the control of confidential information will still remain. Staff that could have been slightly problematic within your office, will still continue to behave in the same way, despite their work environment changing. Now, however, they just require new solutions and guidance.
For more information on handling disciplinary procedures during lockdown please contact us here.