As you know, 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 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.
In Toal v GB Oils Ltd, the GB Oils refused to allow Mr Toal to be accompanied by a particular Trade Union official, and another official accompanied him instead. Mr Toal complained the the Tribunal which held against him, saying that he had waived the breach of his right to be accompanied by choosing another companion.
However the EAT held that if a worker ‘reasonably’ requests to be accompanied by a companion at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, the request for a particular companion does not itself have to be ‘reasonable.’
In other words, Mr Toal should have been allowed to be accompanied by his first choice union official, even though GB Oils had objections to that particular individual for whatever reason.