Coronavirus: Temporary Changes to Procedures

As coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) continues to spread, we recognise that the University needs to adapt its ways of working. We want to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and safeguard the welfare of our staff during the coronavirus outbreak, while continuing our operations as normally as possible. To enable the University to focus on critical organisational priorities whilst safeguarding the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff, the University has agreed some temporary modifications to the Disciplinary, Capability/Performance and Grievance Procedures and the procedure for non-confirmation of probation. These changes, which are intended to be for the overall benefit and wellbeing of employees, are subject to the following principles:

  • there should be no long-term detriment to employees;
  • the University will ensure variations to standard practice are reasonable; and
  • the University’s practice should remain compliant with legislation.

These temporary amendments, which have been discussed with trade union representatives, will expire on 30 October 2020 unless otherwise agreed by the University following further consultation with trade unions.

The following principles and definitions apply:

  1. Review: all existing cases will be reviewed by the Director of Human Resources (HRD) in conjunction with the HR Casework Manager & Solicitor and assessed on a case by case basis using criteria such as employee wellbeing, organisational reputation, employee detriment, employment law and potential for dismissal. Following such review, existing cases may be paused in accordance with (4) below or progressed in accordance with (6) below.

  2. Existing Cases: are cases where the formal stages of the applicable procedure (Disciplinary, Capability/Performance Procedure, Grievance and non-confirmation of probation) had commenced (including an investigation having been commissioned where applicable) prior to 23 March 2020.

  3. New Cases: are cases which are referred to the HR casework team for progression under the formal stage of the applicable procedure (Disciplinary, Capability/Performance Procedure, Grievance and non-confirmation of probation) on or after 23 March 2020.

  4. Pause: based on the Review at (3) above, existing cases may be paused, the status quo maintained and the ‘clock stopped’. The employee will be notified when the clock will restart (This period is currently undetermined due to uncertainty around the global health crisis; however this is likely to be when normal working practices/business as usual for the University are resumed.)

  5. Delay: any new cases may, at the discretion of the HRD, be delayed, unless it is considered essential that the matter be addressed as soon as possible in accordance with (6) below - e.g. for employee wellbeing, potential cases of gross misconduct, gross professional negligence etc.

  6. Reasonable: where the decision is taken that the matter should be progressed and that formal action needs to be taken, there will be reasonable extensions to timescales under the University’s procedures and reasonable changes to membership of hearing (including appeal) panels, to enable a wider pool of management and HR representatives. Greater use of technology will be made in conducting hearings where possible, including use of Microsoft Teams, which enables all participants to ‘meet’ online. All University staff with access to a computer should be able to download Microsoft Teams.
  7. Modified Procedure: Greater use of technology will be made in conducting hearings where possible, including use of Microsoft Teams, which enables all participants to ‘meet’ online. All University staff with access to a computer should be able to download Teams. Where it is not possible to proceed with a meeting on teams, for example where the staff member does not have access to teams or where it is recommended that a meeting take place face to face due to a medical condition, then from 1 July 2020 a modified procedure will be followed with a hearing to take place ‘partially in person’ in a building on campus which has been risk assessed and open with sufficient space for social distancing requirements to be met. The chair and staff member will attend in person. The second panel member (where applicable) and companion may attend in person or via Teams (to be assessed on a case by case basis). All other parties, including supporting HR Representative, note taker and witnesses will attend via Teams. 

For more information see the specific procedures:

The University and trade unions have also agreed a temporary variation to the Conditions of Employment on reallocating staff to other duties.

Covid-19 (Temporary changes to probation periods)

All staff currently on probation at 30 April 2020 will be advised of the opportunity to extend their probation period for 6 months, or for those on fixed-term contracts until the end of the current contract. This arrangement is to remove any anxiety for staff on probation, for example those who may have been absent due to illness and have been unable to complete any aspects of their probation within their current probation period. When employees and their manager receive the communication setting out this option, they should discuss whether they feel an extension would be helpful and notify humanresources@exeter.ac.uk. If during the 6 month period, the probation can be completed earlier the probation procedures can proceed as normal. If no response is received, the normal probation date will apply.

If you have any queries or concerns about your probation period, please discuss with your College or Service HR Advisor.

Changes may also be made to other University procedures on a temporary basis during this period, following consultation with trade unions.