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Accompanying an employee at a disciplinary hearing

When we read about employment issues, it’s easy for those of us who employ just one domestic staff member to forget that, although we are at the low end of the employment scale in numbers, the law affects us all regardless of size.
So, we try to keep you informed of changes and decisions made by courts which are relevant to you.

Very often, simply the highlighting of an issue brings us up with a jolt when it dawns that maybe we haven’t even got the procedure in place at all.  And that can have serious ramifications.

One such decision recently came out of the Employment Tribunal Appeal.

It is probable that you are not aware of section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999.  This gives a worker the right to reasonably request to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, relating to some action they may have taken or failed to take, or for some other reason.

There are three categories of person who may accompany the employee:

  • A work colleague,
  • A full time Trade Union official
  • or a lay official whom the Trade Union has certified in writing as having the necessary experience or training.

In your case, it would only be the first, a colleague, but perhaps they don’t have a colleague.  Are you then prepared to let them be accompanied by a friend?

What harm would it do?  It might save further problems down the line, when what was said or not said could be contested.  It’s called covering your back and it costs you nothing.

However, just as relevant is the question: “Do you have any sort of disciplinary or grievance procedure in writing?”

If not, this is a timely reminder that when you need to take an employee to task, it must be done in the correct way, in accordance with appropriate and fair procedures.  Erring on the side of caution is very often a good idea.  Lastly, as always, before taking any such action, take professional advice.

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