Online complaint panel matters

Due to the present COVID crisis, governors have been meeting virtually. A lot has been written and discussed about these meetings. I was thinking about governor panels in the present situation. Ideally, panel hearings should be held in person but there may be circumstances where this may not be possible. In such cases it would be advisable to draw up a protocol which should be sent to all parties beforehand. Below I have listed a few things which could be included in the protocol.

  • Ensure you follow your complaints policy to the letter
  • Inform participants well in advance that
    • The panel will meet virtually and why
    • The link will be sent to them a day before the panel meets (ask them to check junk folders and inform the organizer (the clerk) that they’ve received it. It’s especially important that they inform the clerk if they haven’t received the link.
    • Tell them that the link should not be shared with anyone
    • The panel could be sent two links; one to be used for the panel meeting and the second for the panel deliberations. This ensures that there will be no one present during the deliberations who shouldn’t be there
  • Offer to hold a test run
  • The organizer/clerk of the meeting should share their contact number with all the participants. The clerk should have contact details of the panel, school representative and complainant so the clerk can get in touch with people (and they with the clerk) on the day if needed (for example in case of trouble logging on).
  • Think about using a platform which has a “waiting room” facility
  • Ask participants to join 5-15 minutes before the start so that any logging on problems could be ironed out
  • Ask everyone who will be participating to inform the clerk if they will be accompanied by family/friend/union member. If your policy mentions that legal representation is not allowed, then make that clear
  • Decide what will happen if the complainant does not join the meeting within the specified time and has not informed the organizer why (will you postpone or will the meeting go ahead in the complainant’s absence)
  • Decide what will happen if the complainant, school representative or one or more of the panel members are unable to join in or lose their connection during the meeting
  • Inform everyone that they should be in a room where they can’t be overheard or interrupted
  • Ask them use headphones if possible
  • Ask them to keep cameras on and microphones un-muted during the proceedings (unless they are conferring with the person accompanying them. Please see comment by Ros below)
  • Inform them that recording of proceedings is strictly prohibited
  • Ask participants to sign in using their names so that the organizer can recognize who is trying to join the meeting and admit them
  • Ask your clerk if they are happy to clerk and if they need any help/resources and would they prefer someone else to look after the technology side of the things (this person needs to respect confidentiality of the proceedings and take no part in the proceedings)
  • Decide how the papers will be sent to all participants (paper copies or online)
  • Decide before hand if screen sharing will be allowed. If yes, then decide how that would work
  • If the meeting has to be stopped for a little while (for example the complainant gets upset and needs time to regain composure and withdraws for few minutes) then the school representative should be asked to withdraw too so they aren’t alone  with the panel. The clerk should put them into the waiting room/lobby.

Is there anything else you would include? I would also like to hear from anyone who has experience of online panels.

3 thoughts on “Online complaint panel matters

  1. Ros Coffey

    Hi Naureen

    Interesting topic but a couple of points, if a party does not turn up you must still continue with the hearing as though they were there unless there is a really pressing reason for their non-attendance. Secondly, you cannot ask people not to mute, what if they wanted to confer with their TU rep or colleague, this is often done at f2f hearings and done very quietly so that the panel and witnesses cannot hear, it would be odd to deprive people of this. I would suggest that you use something like Teams where separate but private rooms, could be used for discussion by the various parties, including the panel.

    Reply
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