If you are experiencing issues in your workplace, you may be considering raising (or have already raised) a Formal Grievance. This can, understandably, be a stressful and concerning time. You may therefore wish to take a companion to your Grievance Hearing for support. Please read on to find out more.
Here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, we have over 80 years combined experience supporting clients with their workplace issues. We often receive calls from concerned clients who have raised, or are considering raising, a Formal Grievance at work. They are, however, often concerned about attending their Grievance Hearing/Meeting with their employer. This blog therefore aims to answer the commonly asked questions we are asked about being supported in a Grievance Hearing.
What Is Formal Grievance?
If you are experiencing an issue in your workplace and you have tried (unsuccessfully) to resolve the matter informally, then you may consider raising a Formal Grievance. This should start the process of your employer investigating and, if possible, taking action to rectify the issue (please see below).
There are many reasons why you may feel it necessary to raise a Grievance at work. This might include (but is not limited to) bullying or harassment you are experiencing from a colleague, pay issues, health and safety concerns or issues with new working practices.
For guidance on how to raise a Formal Grievance at work, please see our blog here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/how-to-raise-a-formal-grievance/.
After raising a Formal Grievance, your employer should follow their own grievance procedure (if they have one). In any event, your employer should follow the ACAS Code on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. Essentially, your employer should:
- Meet with you to discuss your Grievance
- Allow you to be accompanied at the meeting/hearing (as below)
- Investigate your Grievance (if necessary)
- Decide on what action, if any, should be taken in relation to your Grievance
- Confirm the outcome to you in writing
- Provide the opportunity for you to appeal the outcome, if necessary.
Do I Have To Take Someone With Me To My Grievance Hearing?
As detailed below, you may be legally entitled to take someone to your grievance hearing/meeting. However, this does not mean you are obliged to do so. You can, of course, attend the meeting alone.
However, here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, we always recommend that our clients take someone with them to their grievance hearing. Given the very nature of a grievance hearing (i.e., that you are formally raising concerns about your workplace), we understand employees can find the whole process very difficult. Taking someone along to your meeting can therefore often relieve some stress and anxiety. However, this is, of course, completely your decision.
Who Can I Take with Me to My Grievance Hearing?
If you have raised a grievance at work, you have a legal right to be accompanied (by one of the below companions) if you are attending a meeting to discuss a grievance “which concerns the performance of a duty by an employer in relation to a worker”. In practice, this will cover a wide range of issues. It is therefore common for employers to allow this right to be accompanied in any event, and as a means of good practice.
Importantly, however, this right to be accompanied only extends to the following companions:
- A Trade Union Representative; or
- An official employed by a Trade Union; or
- A work colleague.
I Want A Family Member to Attend My Grievance Hearing – What Can I Do?
As above, the right to be accompanied does not extend to a family member or friend. However, here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors we understand that it can help our clients to be accompanied by one of these people at their Grievance Hearing.
Therefore, if you would like a family member or friend to attend your Grievance Hearing, you should: –
- Check your employer’s own grievance procedure, if they have one. This may allow a wider range of people to accompany you in the meeting. If so, you should highlight this to your employer and make sure they follow their own procedure!
- Even if your employer’s procedure is silent on the matter, you can still ask your employer if someone else can accompany you. Again, whilst you do not have any legal right in this regard, your employer may nevertheless agree to your request.
Furthermore, if you have a disability (for example, a mental health condition), being accompanied in your grievance hearing by a family member or friend may be considered a reasonable adjustment. For more information about reasonable adjustments, please see our blog here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/disability-discrimination-what-are-reasonable-adjustments/.
How Do I Request A Companion At My Grievance Hearing?
If you would like to take a companion to your Grievance Hearing, you should, firstly, check your employer’s grievance procedure (if they have one). If this details how you should request a companion, you should make sure you follow it!
In any event, your request to be accompanied should be reasonable. For example, if you want a work colleague to accompany you at the meeting, you should choose someone who is willing to assist you and, importantly, available to attend the meeting. You should try not to choose someone who is on holiday, maternity leave or sick leave etc.
You should also give your employer enough time to make the necessary practical arrangements. Ideally, you should make your request to your employer in writing, and you should provide your employer (if possible) with the name of your chosen companion ahead of the meeting.
What Happens If My Companion Is Unable To Attend My Grievance Hearing?
Firstly, it is important that you and your companion make every effort to attend your scheduled Grievance Hearing. If, however, your companion is unavailable at the time of the scheduled hearing, you should ask for the hearing to be postponed and suggest an alternative time. You should ensure that:
- your suggested time is reasonable; and
- not more than five working days after the original proposed date.
If both of the above conditions are met, your employer must postpone your grievance hearing.
What Can My Companion Do In My Grievance Hearing?
There is a common misconception that a companion must sit silently throughout a hearing. However, this is not the case. In fact, your companion can do the following: –
- Address the hearing to sum up your case; and
- Respond on your behalf (but only to representations in the hearing); and
- Confer with you during the hearing; and
- Make notes throughout the hearing.
However, importantly, your companion should not address the hearing if you do not want them to do so or prevent you from presenting your case.
What If My Employer Refuses My Legal Right to Be Accompanied?
Importantly, if your employer refuses (or threatens to refuse) your legal right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague, you can make a specific claim to the Employment Tribunal in relation to this matter. If successful, you could be awarded up to two weeks’ pay for your employer’s actions.
There are very strict time limits for pursuing claims in the Employment Tribunal. In this instance, you must start the Employment Tribunal process, by initiating ACAS Early Conciliation, within three months (less one day) from the failure (or threat) to comply with your legal right. For more information about the Employment Tribunal process, please see here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/acas-early-conciliation-what-is-it-all-about/.
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help You
We always hope the information on our website is helpful. However, if you have raised a Grievance at work, we advise you to seek legal advice as soon as possible. If you would like a free consultation with one of team at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, simply use the contact form, engage in a web chat, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01522 440512 and we’ll be happy to help.
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