What Do You Need To Know About The Right to be Accompanied?

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A recent case at Employment Tribunal (Toal, another employee vs GB Oils Ltd) which progressed onto an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) highlighted the issue of the employee’s right to be accompanied at formal meetings. The two employees of GB Oils Ltd had a grievance meeting and their first choice was to be represented by a particular Trade Union Official. The employer rejected their choice on the grounds of reasonableness. The employees were left to find alternative representatives, which they were able to do and the grievance hearings went ahead. However, the employees submitted an employment tribunal claim against their employer. This case ended up at an Employment Appeal Tribunal where the decision went in their favour. The judge stated that as long as the employee has selected as a representative either someone who is a Trade Union Official or a work colleague, an employer cannot reject the choice of representation. It is a well embedded part of the procedures that employees have the right to be accompanied at the formal stages of any disciplinary or grievance meeting. The employee can chose either a Trade Union Official to represent them or a work colleague to accompany them. The representatives/companions have the right to:
  • Speak for the employee in their defence

  • Query or seek clarification of the procedures

  • Examine and question any evidence or papers produced for the hearing

  • They can also address the disciplining or grievance manager in writing, verbally, including bringing to attention any mitigating circumstances

  • They can also sum up the case
If a representative/companion is not able to attend the date of the hearing, the employer should always adjourn the meeting. The meeting should then be rescheduled, usually within 5 working days, to allow the employee to have representation or to be accompanied at a formal meeting.

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