One thing is certain, COVID-19 is changing the way people and organisations are working. Flexible working is normal, home working is not the taboo it once was and zoom is the new water cooler hangout space.
But one thing which hasn’t been ironed out yet is how do Leaders and HR people ‘HR’ when working remotely? How do you conduct a redundancy consultation by zoom? How do you do a disciplinary? How can you make adjustments and still be legally compliant? Well, based on our experience of working with customers during this period we wanted to share our top 3 tips to remote consultation:
- Still offering the right Representation – despite the meeting being remote, if it’s a disciplinary/ grievance hearing or a consultation meeting, the employee still has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative. So, whether it’s on zoom, skype or a conference call, you need to offer the right and make the details available to who ever else may need to join.
- Preparing the employee and the environment – Imagine this, you’re in a formal hearing, then all of a sudden….a delivery at the door, a dog starts barking or even better, a partner starts to join in, sound familiar? Well, it happens, but you can do some things to manage this, our advice is….
- Allow more time and accept some interruption – meetings are inherently less efficient at the moment, being flexible and scheduling a bit longer than you would normally is going to be less stressful for everyone.
- Ask your employee the best time for a meeting and be flexible – your people have a routine by now, they know when the baby is likely to be asleep and when they are less likely to be distracted. If you work around them it makes for much more productive meetings, and your people will appreciate it.
- Prepare them for the meeting – your employee should know the purpose of the meeting and the potential outcome. You should also ask them to get themselves in a place where they are free from interruption (where possible),
- Know when to bail – ultimately if interruptions are proving a nightmare, sometimes it’s better to bail and rearrange than persevere. This might not feel like the most natural thing to do, but sometimes it’s best. For example, if the internet keeps dropping, maybe a conference call is best, if the partner keeps contributing to the meeting (albeit they shouldn’t be part of it), adjourning might be a good way to resolve any conflict or tension. Just be sure to have a note of where you stopped so you remember where to start again.
- Recording the meeting vs taking notes – let’s innovate - it’s not news to anyone that a formal record needs to be made of consultation meetings or hearings. But actually, here’s an opportunity to innovate! Rather than giving the note taker cramp trying to type minutes like usual, why not just record the zoom meeting and make that recording available to all attendees? It not only saves a lot of time, but finally all of that pain around how ‘verbatim’ the minutes are finally goes away. Now if you’re going to do this there are few things you need to think about….
- a) consent….this is one of the reasons HR professionals don’t take or allow recording devices into a hearing…so, we’d advise the chair of the meeting makes it clear at the start of the meeting that it’s being recorded, and asks all parties to confirm they are happy with this.
- b) making the recording available. If you ever end up in tribunal, the recording needs to be easy to play whether or not you have a zoom licence. So, the chair of the meeting must save the video in a format which can easily be put on a USB stick to give to the employee, any meeting attendees and of course the tribunal office itself.
- c) If you run into issues sometimes a lawyer may advise you to get a transcript of a recording for a tribunal. If that’s the case, you have a perfect recording which you can type up.
We hope you find these tips useful….we’re going to keep adding to these as we learn so watch this space….also, if you’d like to find out more right away we’re currently scheduling webinars where we share our experience on virtual consultation in more detail. If you’re interested in attending one of these please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.