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Disciplinary: Right to be Accompanied

What is the right to be accompanied at disciplinary hearings?

Employees have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a trade union representative at disciplinary or grievance hearings under s.10 Employment Relations Act 1999. This includes meetings from which redundancy may follow. Some employers will agree to the employee being accompanied by a family member or friend, but there is no obligation to do so. The statutory right does not extend to legal representatives or family members.

If the employee makes a request to be accompanied, s/he should do so reasonably. For example it may not be reasonable to choose a companion who is in geographically remote location when a suitable person is available at the place of work. It would also not be reasonable to choose a companion whose presence would prejudice a hearing or who has a conflict of interest. If the employee’s chosen companion cannot attend on the date proposed, the employee may offer an alternative time and date so long as it is reasonable and is no more than five working days later than the date proposed by the employer.

In October 2004 the Employment Relations Act 2004 extended the role of the companion so that the companion may now: put forward the employee’s case, sum up the case, respond on the employee’s behalf to any view expressed at the hearing; and confer with the employee during the hearing

However, the companion still cannot answer questions on the employee’s behalf. The companion may address the hearing (but not answer questions on behalf of the worker), and may confer with the worker during the hearing. If the chosen companion will not be available at the time proposed for the hearing by the employer, and the worker proposes a reasonable alternative time within the next five working days, the employer must postpone the meeting.

Strangely, there appears to be no obligation on employers to inform workers of the right to be accompanied before the meeting takes place, though it is always good practice to do so.

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We are disciplinary hearing solicitors. Call us today for a free initial chat with a solicitor for some more specific advice on disciplinary procedures. Telephone 0207 118 0950. For more advice on fair disciplinary procedures, click here.

See also ACAS.

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