We are often asked whether employees can bring to meetings a member of their family or some other person from outside of the work environment and also what rights an ‘accompanying’ person has in a hearing at work. We therefore hope that the following will prove useful to clarify these questions.
Section 10 of the ERA 1999 creates a right for a worker when invited by his/her employer to attend a disciplinary or grievance hearing (or indeed any meeting at which the employee’s future employment is to be considered ie a final redundancy meeting), to make a reasonable request to be accompanied by a single companion who can be either:-
a) An official of an independent trade union (not necessarily one recognised by the employer) or;
b) A trade union official who has been certified by a trade union as having had experience or having received training in acting as a worker’s companion in such hearings (ie shop steward); or
c) Another of the employer’s workers.
They must produce ID before the meeting – that ID should state their title and union details:- generally they will be an ‘employee’ of a union (although not always) to have the right to accompany someone – if they are shop stewards then they generally have the right to deal with disciplinary and grievance issues ‘within their own place of work ‘ and not at others but it is always wise to check this directly with the union if there is any doubt.
Please also bear in mind also that the right is to be ‘accompanied’ not ‘represented’ so they can not go as far as a lawyer or other legal person might in a court of law. So in the meeting they:-
- Can liaise/confer with the employee
- Can present the employee’s case
- Can ask questions of you
- Can take notes
- Can ask for an adjournment
- Can sum up at the end
They can’t answer questions on behalf of the EMPLOYEE ie questions that you put to the employee – if they do try to do this then you should politely ask them to cease and again ask the employee to respond.
So there is no right in law to bring mum, dad, next door, neighbour, solicitor or anyone else other than a work colleague or a union official. The only occasion that we may recommend you consider extending this entitlement however is perhaps if you are dealing with someone who is very young and unable to reasonably ‘stand their corner’ or where there are learning or communication difficulties or perhaps if you need to have an interpreter. In the latter case we would recommend that you arrange this rather than letting the employee.
Always ring Alcumus and your consultant will be happy to give guidance.
Julie Dawson, Head of HR Consultancy, Alcumus