Many people facing a disciplinary meeting at work would want to exercise the right to take a 'companion' with them.
The Citizen's Advice Bureau website reminds us that:
'When your employer asks you to go to a disciplinary or dismissal meeting, you can be accompanied to that meeting by a colleague or trade union representative.
If you are asked to go to a disciplinary meeting, you have the right to be accompanied by:
- a colleague
- a trade union representative, or
- an official employed by a trade union
Your companion can:
- take notes on your behalf
- present your case
- sum up your case
- talk things over with you during the hearing
If your companion can't make the date of the meeting, you can ask for the hearing to be rearranged. It should be rearranged for a reasonable time after the original date.'
A recent case considered this final point.
An employee of 20 years sent emails to a friend outside her company which were rude about a work colleague. These emails were found by her employer and they asked her to attend a disciplinary meeting. The meeting did not take place as she was ill and on annual leave. The meeting date was moved to an alternative date, but the employee's companion (her Trade Union representative) could not attend on that date and asked that the meeting date be put back by ten days.
The employer refused this request stating that as the representative could not attend within 5 days of the original date, they were entitled to reject the request from the Trade Union representative. The employee would not attend without her companion as a result of which, the employer dismissed her in her absence.
The Employment Tribunal found in favour of the employee stating that the unwillingness to postpone the meeting made the dismissal unfair. The employer appealed but lost on appeal as well – the Employment Appeal Tribunal took the view that as the employee had worked for the employer for 20 years, a short postponement of the meeting should have been agreed.
Many employers have included a provision in their policies stating that such a postponement would only be 5 days. However, the overriding issue is one of fairness and employers run the risk of a finding of unfair dismissal if they are not flexible in their approach to the request for more time when a companion is not available.
If you want to discuss this or any other employment related issue, contact us.