The right to be accompanied

Employees are entitled to be accompanied at formal meetings such as disciplinary or grievance hearings. But what happens when their statutory right to be accompanied is refused?

Under s.11 of the Employment Relations Act 1999, a worker is entitled to bring a tribunal claim where their employer fails to provide them with the right to be accompanied and the claim must be brought within three months of the breach.

Compensation is limited to two weeks’ pay (capped at £643 per week) per breach and the Acas Code of Practice gives latitude to the employment tribunal to increase or decrease the award by a further 25% if there is an unreasonable failure to follow the Code.

There is also the question of what happens when an employee’s representative is not available.  In this case, the employer must be reasonable in allowing an employee to seek representation.  Certainly, the employer should at the very least, reschedule a hearing where the representative is not available by five working days.  In the case where this occurs more than once, the employer must be seen to be reasonable – for the sake of another week, it is often sensible to allow latitude to the employee to rearrange a hearing where his or her representative is not available.

Being allowed to bring a suitable companion is an important part of ensuring that the employee is treated fairly and reasonably and employers should do what is necessary to allow this to happen.

121 HR Solutions regularly assists employers in matters relating to disciplinary and grievances and can provide in-house training to support managers. Contact us on 0800 9995 121.

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