Many employers are contemplating the use of virtual meetings in order to comply with social distancing measures and government orders limiting the number of people who may gather at once. Holding virtual meetings will allow employers and unions to ensure the health and safety of personnel and reduce the potential for spreading COVID-19.
In the labour and employment context, meetings that may need to occur virtually include:
- Collective bargaining;
- Discipline meetings; and
- Grievance meetings.
This blog post highlights certain issues that employers should consider before holding a virtual meeting.
- Selecting a platform
The parties should select the platform that will best suit their needs. Some considerations to address include security, confidentiality, video and audio quality, and whether the platform has breakout room capabilities to allow the parties to talk privately. The parties should also ensure that their plan has enough minutes to cover the entire meeting.
- Meeting hosts
The parties should consider the appearance of bias when deciding who will host the meeting. A best practice is to designate a host from each side, i.e. an employer representative and a union representative. Alternatively, the parties may decide to engage a third-party service provider to arrange and support the virtual meeting.
- Obtaining consent
Parties would be well-advised to enter into a written agreement to establish mutual consent to hold the meeting by videoconference. The parties may also wish to set out other parameters of the virtual meeting in the agreement, for example, how the parties will split any costs of the meeting.
- Test the platform
The hosts may wish to hold a practice session to ensure the videoconferencing technology is working properly, in order to avoid technology-related interruptions to the meeting. The hosts may also want to provide information to attendees on how to test the compatibility of their equipment with the selected platform in advance of the meeting.
- Meeting password
A meeting password will help to ensure the security of the virtual meeting. The password should not be shared on publicly available locations such as social media, and the hosts should remind attendees to refrain from sharing the meeting password with others.
During the meeting
- Entering the meeting
The hosts should identify all meeting attendees prior to the meeting and ensure that only approved attendees are able to join the meeting. Security measures could include setting up a virtual “waiting room” to screen attendees before allowing them to join the meeting or requiring attendees to present photo identification upon entering the meeting.
The parties should ensure that attendees take all practicable steps to protect the confidentiality of the meeting, including protecting the confidentiality of any notes taken during the meeting. Whenever possible, try to ensure that attendees do not have anyone else in the room with them while they attend the virtual meeting.
The parties should consider whether all or any part of the meeting will be recorded, and alert attendees in advance. The hosts should ensure that no attendee records the meeting without advance, written authorization.
- Emergency notifications
The parties should consider what will happen in the event that an attendee becomes disconnected from the meeting, or if other technological issues arise. For example, the hosts could circulate their phone numbers to all attendees so that attendees may contact their representative if they become disconnected from the meeting.
We anticipate that virtual meetings will become a necessity for many employers in the coming months in order to comply with social distancing protocols. MLT Aikins would be pleased to assist you with examining your options and drafting the required documents in order to run a successful virtual meeting.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.