Whilst the guidance is fairly short and directs readers to their existing guidance, it has been noted that the Covid-19 outbreak is having a particular effect on employees with certain protected characteristics and focuses on female, disabled and older employees.
This guidance confirms that employees can still participate in disciplinary and/or grievance hearings (including if they are under investigation, are chairing the hearing, are taking notes at the hearing, are attending as a witness etc.) whilst they are on furlough. However, this is only if it takes place in line with current public health guidelines and if the employee is doing so out of their own choice (‘voluntarily’). This therefore suggests that we cannot require employees to attend such meetings whilst they are on furlough.
This guidance sets out best practice, and so is perhaps more cautious than the law actually requires, however, given the lack of guidance on this point, it would be prudent to at least give careful consideration to the possible need to delay disciplinary hearings and/or bring people off furlough to hold them if they are not willing to voluntarily attend.
The ACAS guidance does not touch upon redundancy consultation meetings, which are potentially more pertinent at the moment, however, it is potentially logical that if an employee can only attend a disciplinary or grievance hearing during furlough if they’re doing so voluntarily, that this would also apply to redundancy consultation meetings.
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