HR procedures for staff subject to Sue Gray’s inquiry into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties at Downing Street could delay the publication of her detailed findings, an employment lawyer has suggested.
Amanda Lennon said the senior civil servant could face difficulties in publishing her report in any detail if she intends to identify the staff involved, if internal procedures are not completed first.
The employment lawyer at Spencer West and HR director told the PA news agency: “Fair investigations, and as appropriate follow up disciplinary action, in line with the relevant civil service HR policy, will have to have been carried out before it’s fair for conclusions to be reached in each case, from an employment law and HR perspective.
“If an employee is dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation and/or any ensuing disciplinary process they have the right to appeal. This must be considered and concluded before the report is published unless the matter is couched in such a way that no particulars that could identify the individual are given.
“Otherwise the employee could claim that the process is procedurally and substantively unfair and a breach of their right to privacy.”
Concerns facing unions and the civil service’s HR department will be “centred around the need to follow a fair and thorough process with each individual, including concluding any appeal process against the decision”, she said, warning: “This could take weeks if not months.”
“These individuals’ reputations and employment positions could be seriously undermined, especially if their investigations haven’t been concluded, not to mention their privacy – their names will be a matter of public record.
“I believe that despite the pressure the Government is under to publish the report now, it should be delayed until the HR processes are all complete if names are to be included.
“The holding wording could be used to appease the pressure and publish the report now, but it will be difficult for the report to go into the detail people are expecting without the processes having been concluded, otherwise the report will be too subjective.”
A spokesman for the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, said: “It would be the FDA’s expectation that, as is normal practice when the results of investigations are made public, no officials below the level of the senior civil service would be individually identified.
“Additionally, we would expect that anyone who is named would be given prior notice of what the report says about them.
“As those involved may also face further action by the police, it is important not to in anyway prejudice the ongoing investigation by the Metropolitan Police.”