What are your rights to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing?
Section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 (the “Act”) states that workers have a right to be accompanied if they make a reasonable request. A “reasonable request” is not defined in the Act
Under the ACAS Code:
- employers must agree to a worker’s request to be accompanied by any chosen companion from one of the statutory categories of companion, namely a fellow worker, trade union representative or trade union official;
- a worker may alter their choice of companion if they wish, although as a matter of good practice, workers should bear in mind practicalities. For instance, a worker may choose to be accompanied by a companion who is suitable, willing and available on site rather than someone at a geographically remote location;
- to exercise the right to be accompanied workers must make a reasonable request. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. A reasonable request would be one that provides sufficient information and time to allow the employer to deal with the practicalities of the companion’s attendance at the hearing;
- a worker should ensure that their request is clearly understood, for example by providing the name of the companion where possible; explaining whether they are a fellow worker, trade union representative or trade union official and giving the employer time to make the necessary arrangements to allow the chosen companion to attend.
- A request to be accompanied does not have to be in writing or made within a particular time frame; and
- if a worker’s chosen companion is not available the employer must postpone the hearing to a time proposed by the worker provided that the alternative time is reasonable and not more than five working days after the date originally proposed.