During the period where workplaces were in the main closed and schools were only open for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers Union advise was that it was not possible to proceed with consultations or with disciplinary, capability or grievance matters which required meetings, hearing and representation.
As workplaces start to re-open with a Covid risk assessment in place and schools gradually start opening wider it is likely that employers will move to arrange meetings and hearings.
The primary objective is to ensure the hearing is postponed. We do not believe hearings should be going ahead until schools are operating normally however there will be some employers who insist on hearings/meetings going ahead.
The most appropriate and fairest way for a hearing to be held is as a physical meeting. However, there are currently significant challenges with organising physical meetings and it must be safe for all participants.
The following checklist will assist you to assess, in discussion with the member, whether it is safe for a physical meeting to go ahead and if not whether a remote, digital, meeting is appropriate
Face to face meetings
- Have you seen the risk assessment for the building? Has the risk assessment been undertaken with NEU representatives and in line with the NEU checklist?
- Are the car parking arrangements acceptable?
- Are the arrangements for visitors clear and acceptable?
- Consideration should be given to meeting attendees, where they are travelling from and what other sites they may have visited.
- What arrangements are in place for safe movement around the building?
- Has the hearing/meeting been timed to avoid times when there is a lot of movement around the building?
- Do the room arrangements for the hearing/meeting allow for social distancing?
- Do the room arrangements for side rooms for pre meeting and adjournments allow for social distancing?
- Do all rooms to be used have windows that can be kept open?
- If doors are kept open to aid ventilation how will privacy be maintained?
- Has any air conditioning system been turned off?
- What cleaning of the rooms and surfaces including door handles has/will have taken place?
- Will soap and warm water be available at all times?
- Will paper towels and lidded bins be in place?
- Will hand sanitizers be available?
- Are the toilet arrangements acceptable?
- Will any PPE be provided by the employer? If PPE is required, is it appropriate to wear PPE in a hearing?
- Refreshments, such as drinks must not be shared, and all participants must take their own refreshments. Have any users of the building or visitors to the building tested positive in the last 14 days and if so what has been put in place as a result?
- When was the last deep clean of the building?
- Are any of the parties clinically vulnerable, vulnerable, live with or care for someone who is vulnerable, or is anyone at higher risk of contracting Covid 19 and/or becoming seriously ill in line with NEU guidance?
- Is there a workplace rep in the school who can represent the member?
- Do all parties have the necessary equipment, Internet connection and skills for the technology required?
- Have any accessibility issues been addressed?
- Have contingency plans for IT difficulties been agreed?
- Do all parties have a private space away from the rest of their household whilst participating in the hearing/meeting?
- What arrangements are in place for private discussions between you and the member?
- What arrangements are in place so that witness statements or other evidence can be seen clearly by everyone involved during the hearing/meeting?
- Has there been confirmation that the hearing/meeting will not be recorded, other than in the normal way and by agreement?
- Has the length of the session, including the timing and inclusion of breaks, been agreed? Recognition should be given to the fact that virtual meetings are tiring, and shorter sessions may be needed.
- Have the number of sessions required to complete the hearing/meeting been agreed?
- Have the protocols for the hearing/meeting been agreed including how to raise objections and the arrangements for adjournment?
- Have you made arrangements to support the member when the meeting/hearing ends and everyone hangs up?
- Is there agreement that at the start of the meeting the following will be set out?
- A clear agenda
- Reminder of confidentiality
- All video cameras should be on to replicate as closely as possible a face to face hearing/meeting.
- All microphones will be muted when not speaking
- All parties should indicate digitally when they wish to speak with the agreed arrangements for making objections clearly set out
- Any adjournment by either side will necessitate an adjournment by the other side
If you require further advice you should contact your regional or Wales office.