Who may accompany an employee at a disciplinary meeting?
Section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 (the “Act”) states that workers have a right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing if they make a reasonable request. It is a statutory right, therefore, for the employee to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing.
However, as a result of a ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in 2013, Acas was forced to update its advice on the issue in 2015. The EAT ruled in Toal v GB Oils Ltd that employees exercising the statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing are entitled to have a representative, whoever they choose, provided the individual is a relevant union representative or work colleague employers cannot refuse a particular companion, therefore, on the grounds that their presence is “unreasonable” — the “reasonable” (not defined in the statute) requirement does not extend to the identity of the companion. An employee can be accompanied, therefore, by another employee or representative of his or her choice.
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