Have you been asked to attend a disciplinary or grievance hearing? Did you know you have the right to be accompanied? Or perhaps you’ve been asked to accompany someone at such a hearing. Read on for more information about the right to be accompanied.
All workers – and this includes agency and homeworkers – have a legally enforceable right to be accompanied by a representative during any disciplinary and grievance procedure hearings. The right to a representative may not extend to an investigation meeting (which usually precedes a hearing) but would extend to any appeal hearing. Your employer is not allowed to contract out of the right to be accompanied.
What representative is a worker allowed?
You have the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union representative of your choice. You are not entitled to insist on another type of representative such as a friend or family member, although your contract of employment might provide for wider rights of representation. Even if it does not, it is worth asking the employer if they will allow you to be accompanied by someone other than a fellow worker or trade union representative if there is otherwise no one suitable or willing.
There is no right to legal representation at a grievance or disciplinary hearing except in very limited circumstances. If your employer is a public authority or carries out a public function and your ability to get work is at stake, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a fair trial) may be engaged.
What is the role of the representative?
The representative’s role is to provide guidance and support to you during your disciplinary or grievance hearing. They are allowed to address the hearing and to confer with you during the hearing but they may not answer questions on your behalf.
What rights does the representative have?
Firstly, there is no duty on a work colleague or trade union official to accompany a worker in a disciplinary or grievance hearing. Therefore if you are asked to accompany a worker but do not wish to do so you may decline without any repercussions. If you are willing to act as representative your employer must allow you a reasonable amount of time off during working hours.
What if the employer breaches the right to be accompanied?
If your employer does not allow you to be accompanied you can complain to an employment tribunal who can award up to two weeks’ pay.
Importantly if you are dismissed either for exercising your right to be accompanied or for acting as a companion, your dismissal will be automatically unfair.
Although there is no general right to legal representation at grievance or disciplinary hearings themselves (except in the limited circumstances referred to above), it is your prerogative to obtain legal advice at any time. Your legal representative can help you put together your case and draft documents on your behalf as well of course as representing you in any subsequent employment tribunal claim.
How can Lincs Law help you?
For more information, please contact us on 01522 440512 or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.
Kathryn Bolton, Specialist Employment Solicitor
DDI: 01522 440515
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors