Who Can Accompany An Employee To A Disciplinary Meeting?
Who can accompany an employee to a disciplinary meeting is a question I get asked a lot! During a recent case in New Zealand, the employer advised their worker to bring a companion with him to his disciplinary meeting, so the employee opted to bring… a clown! So what are the rules in the UK and could employers see many more Ronald McDonalds turning up to meetings?
Your Right To Be Accompanied To A Disciplinary Meeting
Every employee has the right to be accompanied to a formal disciplinary meeting or hearing. There is no legal right to be accompanied at any investigation, but it is good practice to allow this. The right to accompaniment should be advised at the invite stage, along with clear guidance of who is allowed. As per ACAS guidelines, the accompanying companion should fulfil one of the following criteria:
- A work colleague
- A workplace trade union representative who’s certified or trained in acting as a companion
- An official employed by a trade union
An employer must be mindful of anyone with a disability and make any reasonable adjustments to this, for example, a support worker.
Always check at the beginning of the hearing to make sure that an employee is happy to be there without a companion and check they received all relevant invitations giving them that right. Make sure you document this. A tribunal may order compensation of up to 2 weeks pay if the statutory right has not been complied with.
The Right To Bring Your Mum Or Dad?
There is no legal right to allow an employee to bring someone other than those stated above. However, if you have an employee who is under 18, you might decide to allow a parent to be present. Remember an Employment Tribunal would look to see if you were being reasonable. As an employer, you may let your employees bring other people, but this must be clearly stated in your disciplinary policy. For example, in some professions, if the outcome of any hearing could mean you lose your licence, then you may be allowed to bring a solicitor.
Why can’t you just bring anyone? Well, your great Aunt Jo might be a highly successful contracts lawyer. Disciplinary meetings do not take place in a courtroom and, as long as the basic ACAS guidelines are adhered to, there is no need to bring a solicitor.
What Can A Companion Do?
Making balloon animals and generally causing a distraction certainly proved the New Zealander’s point, but the real role of the companion is to:
- Support the individual during the disciplinary meeting
- Address the hearing and ask questions (but remember, they cannot answer on behalf of the individual – the employee must always speak for themselves)
- Confer with the individual outside of the hearing, and they can request a break to confer in private outside of the hearing
- Take notes of the meeting on behalf of the employee, so they have a record of what has been said.
Being a companion is a serious responsibility, so making sure that your companion has prepared and knows what is going on is vital. Also, they cannot have been part of any of the investigation, for example, a witness, as this would be a conflict of interest.
Do I Have To Be A Companion?
So what if you are asked to be a companion? Do you have to accept? The simple answer is no! It is a purely voluntary role, and you have every right to say no. If you have been asked and don’t want to do it, then speak to your manager regarding the best way to say no if you are struggling.
- Make sure you give an employee the right to be accompanied to a formal meeting, e.g. Disciplinary meeting, Grievance Meeting
- Be clear who you will, as an employer, allow as a Companion
- Make sure the companion is clear as to their role.
If you have any questions or would like further advice on disciplinary meetings or anything at all, please get in contact, and we’ll be happy to help.