Covid - Maintaining Procedures

For over 12 months now we’ve been living and working in the most unpredictable of environments; one where the rules, at times, seem to have changed almost daily. We have had to learn to accept change on a huge scale and with home-working becoming the norm for very many of us, we’ve become more relaxed about dress-code and keeping to strict start and finish times.

At times like this, it can be very tempting and all too easy to take a more relaxed approach about some of the other rules and procedures that govern our behaviour in the workplace. So, on the brink of hairdressers, gyms, non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality re-opening, it’s a good time to remind ourselves about the importance of procedure and of maintaining certain policies and protocols.

Take disciplinary and grievance procedures for example which is probably the most commonly short-circuited policy. Just this week there was a case of a firefighter who was awarded over £12,000 at Tribunal following his dismissal. Not because his dismissal was unjust or unfair; indeed, the Tribunal stated that his actions warranted dismissal. But because the fire service that he worked for had failed to follow the Acas code of practice by leaving it too long, four months in actual fact, to hear his appeal.

By law, your disciplinary and grievance policy must be readily available for scrutiny by any employee and should ordinarily reside within your staff handbook. Make sure that your procedure is clear and unambiguous and plainly states the various levels of disciplinary action which is usually verbal warning through to dismissal.

All disciplinary matters should undergo a fair investigation in the first instance, and this would normally be carried out by a line manager. The investigation should gather all relevant evidence and interviews should be held with all involved parties and with anyone who is able to provide evidence for the case. This may be any number of employees or just the subject of the disciplinary matter. Under current restrictions, it’s fine to hold these interviews via Zoom or Teams.

You are still in the process of investigating at this stage, so for the disciplinary subject there is no right of representation. Moreover, you need to be very clear that no conclusion has been reached at this stage otherwise you may be accused of pre-judging the situation.

Once your investigation is concluded and if some form of discipline is required, you may then call the subject to a disciplinary meeting. You must give reasonable notice of a disciplinary meeting and we recommend at least 48 hours.

At the disciplinary stage the subject may be accompanied by a representative. Unless your policy states otherwise, and we recommend that it doesn’t, the employee’s representative may only be a work colleague or an “appointed representative” of a trade union; not simply a trade union member. If the employee chooses not to be represented make sure he or she is aware of their right and have this minuted.

Employees have a right to appeal any disciplinary decision and, unlike the case above, this should be heard in a timely manner and by someone at least equal in status to the disciplining officer.

Because of the difficult conversations that are usually involved it’s easy to see why disciplinary and grievance procedures are often carried it poorly, consequently becoming costly. However, you should apply rigour in all policies, procedures and processes. Redundancy, recruitment and Health & Safety are probably the most obvious, but failure in any can incur a cost.

Luckily we’re here to help and assisting with, attending and carrying out thinks like disciplinary procedures and redundancy processes for our clients is something we do a lot of. For help and support you can call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.