Acas yesterday issued a revised Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. The Code of Practice has been changed as a result of an EAT decision (Toal v GB Oils Limited) made in July 2013.
By way of background, Section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 states that the right to accompaniment applies where a worker is required or invited to attend a disciplinary or grievance hearing, and reasonably requests to be accompanied at the hearing.
Paragraph 36 of the Code of Practice used to state that the worker must make a reasonable request, and that what is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. It went on to say that it would not normally be reasonable for workers to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing or from someone with a remote geographical location if someone suitable and willing was available on site.
In the case of Toal v GB Oils Limited, the EAT decided that a worker's right under s10 was not to be further explained by Paragraph 36 of the Code of Practice, and rejected the guidance it gave. The effect of this EAT ruling was that employers could not rely on the guidance in the Code of Practice. The new Code of Practice has amended text at paragraphs 14-16 and 36-38 to reflect the judgment.
Employers would be well advised to review their disciplinary and grievance procedures to ensure what they say about the right of accompaniment is in line with the revised Code, and of course if you need any assistance with this task we'd be delighted to help.
Click here to read the revised Code of Practice