In early May 2020, Acas published Disciplinary and grievance procedures during the coronavirus pandemic which states that existing employment law and the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (the Acas Code) continue to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance notes that it is for an employer to decide if it would be fair and reasonable to carry on with, or start, a disciplinary or grievance procedure while an employee is furloughed, social distancing and other public health guidelines are being followed, or an employee is working from home. It suggests some practical measures that employers can take, depending on whether a workplace is open or not.
The guidance states that a furloughed employee can take part in a disciplinary or grievance investigation or hearing however, the participation must be voluntary (an individual must be “doing it out of their own choice”) and take place in accordance with current public health guidance.
Employers Must Proceed Cautiously
It is unclear how the Acas guidance should be read alongside the HMRC guidance and the Treasury direction, which require employees to cease all work in relation to their employment during furlough. Arguably, acting as a meeting chairperson, notetaker or even a witness could amount to “work” for the purposes of paragraph 6.1 of the Treasury direction and is providing a service for the employer contrary to the Employers’ CJRS guidance. Accordingly, following the Acas guidance could mean that an employer is unable to claim for reimbursement of an employee’s wages under the CJRS.
In practice, similar principles will apply to those that are relevant when an employee is on sick leave.
We provide detailed guidance in our Furlough Scheme FAQ’s, in the “Activities During Furlough” section.
Support for Employers
If you are an employer and require advice and support on any employment related matter, COVID-19 or otherwise, call us now on 0800 612 4772 or Contact us via our website.