What is the right to be accompanied?

It is the statutory (legal) right for a worker to be accompanied, by a fellow worker or trade union official, at certain disciplinary and grievance meetings. Workers may be overawed or feel intimidated by some hearings, and the accompanying person can help the individual to make all the necessary points.

The right applies to certain disciplinary and grievance meetings which may result in some disciplinary action or where the grievance is about the employer's duty to the worker. This includes any meetings held as part of the statutory dismissal and grievance procedures.

Informal discussions or counselling sessions do not attract the right to be accompanied unless they could result in formal warnings or other actions. Meetings to investigate an issue are not disciplinary hearings. If it becomes clear during the course of such a meeting that disciplinary action is called for, the meetingshould be ended and a formal hearing arranged at which the worker will have the right to be accompanied.

Workers should be informed that they have a statutory right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union official if they make a reasonable request to be so accompanied. Workers should also be reminded of any rights of accompaniment they have over and above statutory rights.

The choice of the accompanying person is for ‘the worker’, not the employer, and can be either a co-worker or a trade union official (full-time or lay). The trade union official does not have to be from within the organisation.

Refusing to allow a worker to be accompanied could lead to a finding of 'automatically unfair' dismissal if the worker is dismissed as a result of the disciplinary hearing and makes an unfair dismissal claim to an employment tribunal

The right to be accompanied does not depend on the length of time a worker has worked for an employer.

Record, record and record

It is important that you keep a record of any disciplinary and grievance procedures. Record dates, time and events and what is said in any meeting. This will provide a vital record if any case goes to an employment tribunal.

Further information can be found in 'USEFUL LINKS' with the title: ACAS disciplinary and grievance procedures

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