This chapter will examine how the right of employees to refuse to work in dangerous circumstances and the rights of employees to be heard at disciplinary and investigatory hearings have fared during COVID-19. Collective dismissals/redundancies will not be examined and nor will issues relating to employment status or specific duties relating to the supply of adequate personal protective equipment insofar as this can be regarded as independent of the idea of “dangerous circumstances”.
Regarding “Dangerous Circumstances”, it was ultimately found that existing provisions in the law of England and Wales had proven effective to an extent with documented incidents of employees asserting their rights in this regard and refusing to work in unsafe conditions. Stronger criticism was reserved for the practice of enforcement of COVID-19 rules by the police and Health and Safety Executive.
Regarding “Discipline and Dismissal” the existing law on disciplinary procedures appears flexible enough to cope with the large shift towards remote working and the problems associated with lockdown. Uncertainties still abound, however in respect of delay which could potentially impact upon the fairness of dismissal. Other peripheral – but important – aspects are the difficulties associated with conducting “virtual” disciplinary, investigatory and dismissal hearings.
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Simmonds, A. 2021, 'Dangerous circumstances, discipline and dismissal: Some employment law impacts of COVID-19', Global Pandemic, Technology and Business: Comparative Explorations of COVID-19 and the Law. https://discovery.dundee.ac.uk/en/publications/0e971149-ae26-48d5-b0b2-5f7e9ad73863