Remote Working – Grievances and Disciplinaries Communication is the key

Human Resources 17th November 2020

Is 2020 proving to be the most challenging year yet for your business? With so much disruption going on, so many plans and strategies to consider, it can be easy to lose sight of everyday business. But it won’t go away, just because you’re having to deal with coronavirus issues. One of these is employee disciplinary and grievance. Your people may be working remotely, but they’re still capable of acting inappropriately. Their behaviour may still mean that you have to consider disciplinaries and grievances.

Stop issues arising in the first place

Of course, it’s not so easy to monitor employees working from home. But this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. In a recent article, we looked at the idea of Employee Monitoring platforms. Although you may not be able to monitor your employees’ activity at home as efficiently as you would in the office, it’s not impossible.

As with so many issues in business (and life!), the best way to deal with them is to avoid them happening in the first place. The key, as ever, is communication. Make sure your people understand the levels of performance that your business expects. Explain the importance of sending you regular updates on their work.

Regular updates as standard practice

These updates need to comprise relevant information about the tasks they’ve completed and the outcomes of these tasks. They should also include their capacity to take on extra work. The updates you receive should enable you to gauge how efficiently your employees are performing their role. It should also encourage them to stay productive. Accepting such regular updates as standard practice will help to reduce the need for misunderstanding and conflict.

Keep in regular contact with your employees through emails, phone calls and video meetings. Hold regular team meetings too. All of these, especially the one-to-one meetings, will allow your people to raise concerns informally and hopefully mitigate the need for formal proceedings.

Disciplinary proceedings – what should the first step be?

The moment you feel that you need to introduce disciplinary proceedings, your first step should be to investigate and find out whether the issues are due to external factors. This might be, for example, caring responsibilities or other matters relating to home working.

If this does turn out to be the case, then you need to find out what kind of support you can offer your employee. Could you adjust their working hours? Could you review their tasks and responsibilities or offer more support? Disciplinary action should be your last resort – especially if your employee, prior to the days of remote working, has a sound record of productivity.

Be 100% sure of your procedures

Inevitably, circumstances will arise when you have to follow the disciplinary route. In these cases, you need to be 100% sure that you’re following due process and a robust disciplinary procedure.  This is particularly important if your employee has over 2 years’ service.  Failure to do this could end up in an unfair dismissal claim against your company if the employee is dismissed.  Thanks to modern technology, you can now conduct the entire disciplinary process remotely. Specifically, you can send disciplinary letters by email and you can also legitimately carry out disciplinary investigations and meetings via video calls.


What if an employee working from home has a grievance? This might relate to an issue with a colleague. It could be an aspect of home working that’s the problem.

If grievances can’t be resolved informally, then you can manage the processes remotely. You need to make employees aware of

– your grievance policy

– where they can find the policy

– how they can raise a formal grievance

If an employee does raise a formal complaint, then it’s your duty to deal with it promptly and instigate a formal grievance process.  Hopefully, you will already have a procedure in place which you can efficiently adapt to a remote working setting.

Are your processes adaptable for remote working?

Do think carefully about how adaptable your disciplinary or grievance process is to your remote working scenario. For example, are you sure that employees with disabilities, or whose circumstances could make it difficult for them to participate are adequately catered for?

It’s equally important to be sure that one-to-one meetings via video call platforms are treated like one-to-one meetings in the office. All issues must be discussed in confidence unless your employee gives you permission to share them with others.


Here at Gravitas HR, we have a thorough understanding of grievance and disciplinary processes. We know about, not just how to handle them, but even better – how to avoid them arising in the first place. Talk to us about any concerns you might have. We’ll be your sounding board and help you towards making the decision that’s best for your business and fair to your employees.

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