Working from home and disciplinary issues
Whilst there is having to be a great deal of flexibility and trust in working arrangements at the moment, there will be many instances where employers will have doubts about the level of work and performance of some of their employees. What options are available to employers in this scenario to deal with this issue?
The government’s current guidance is for employees to work from home unless it is absolutely necessary for them to be in the workplace and the work cannot be done from home. If you suspect an employee is not working diligently or effectively from home then you should approach this as you would any other disciplinary issue. The starting point is to make sure employees know what is expected of them. Although office hours are visible in an office location, some employees may be starting early and therefore finishing early or starting late but going on longer. If this is not acceptable to you, explain why.
You should follow the disciplinary procedures and process set out in your employment contract and the employee handbook and this would typically be to investigate any allegations which have been made and gather evidence, speak to the employee and present them with any evidence which supports the claim, hold a disciplinary hearing albeit in current circumstances not in person and then issue the appropriate disciplinary sanction if the matter is serious enough.
Employers do need to consider the many other factors which might be impacting on an employee’s individual performance at this time, especially if it is different to their usual day to day performance.
Their living arrangements might be less than ideal if they have restricted access to the internet or if they live in a home with multiple occupants where it is difficult to find the space and the peace to work without disturbance. Employees with young children might be juggling childcare and work, which can be especially difficult if they have children with extra needs. Employees might also be helping to care for other family members. There is of course the impact on an individual’s own mental health of the current crisis and employers should not underestimate how an individual is coping at this extra-ordinary time.
Whatever the mitigating circumstances which might be affecting an individual’s performance, you should seek professional advice to discuss some of the options available to you to help guide you through this and to help you to achieve the best outcome for your business and your employees.