New draft Code revises wording on accompaniment to disciplinary and grievance hearings

30 January 2015

A judgment made by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) clarified the rules around the types of companions that workers can bring with them to grievance or disciplinary hearings.

The EAT found that workers had the right to be accompanied at these hearings by any companion as long as they are from one of the categories listed in section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999. These include trade unions officials, certified union representatives or fellow workers.

Acas launched a public consultation on the draft revisions made to the right of accompaniment sections in its disciplinary and grievance code following the EAT's judgment. The results of this consultation have been published alongside a revised draft of the Code which is now subject to parliamentary approval.

Acas has specifically inserted new paragraphs 14-16 and 36-38 in the discipline and grievance accompaniment sections of the Code following the consultation. These paragraphs now say:

· The statutory right is to be accompanied by a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union. A trade union representative who is not an employed official must have been certified by their union as being competent to accompany a worker.

· Employers must agree to a worker's request to be accompanied by any companion from one of these categories. Workers may also alter their choice of companion if they wish. As a matter of good practice, in making their choice workers should bear in mind the practicalities of the arrangements. For instance, a worker may choose to be accompanied by a companion who is suitable, willing and available on site rather than someone from a geographically remote location.

· To exercise the statutory right to be accompanied workers must make a reasonable request. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. A request to be accompanied does not have to be in writing or within a certain time frame. However, a worker should provide enough time for the employer to deal with the companion's attendance at the meeting. Workers should also consider how they make their request so that it is clearly understood, for instance by letting the employer know in advance the name of the companion where possible and whether they are a fellow worker or trade union official or representative.

· If a worker's chosen companion will not be available at the time proposed for the hearing by the employer, the employer must postpone the hearing to a time proposed by the worker provided that the alternative time is both reasonable and not more than five working days after the date originally proposed.