Phone a friend? ACAS to amend disciplinary code to allow free choice of companion

ACAS has published proposals to change its code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures as a result of a surprise Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision earlier this year that an employee’s choice of companion for a hearing does not need to be ‘reasonable’. The legislation says that the employee can choose a companion as long as certain requirements as to the identity of the companion are fulfilled (they must be an employee, a union official or certified by the union as having experience or training in acting as a companion).

Although the ACAS code previously suggested that being accompanied by a companion whose presence might prejudice the hearing might not be considered ‘reasonable’, in July the EAT in Toal v GB Oils Ltd decided that the legislation was clear and therefore the suggestion in the code was not relevant. The employer had breached the employee’s rights by refusing to allow him to be accompanied by a particular union official (although the EAT did go on to suggest that any compensation for a breach of statutory rights on this basis should be nominal in the absence of financial loss)…

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