New ACAS Code of Practice published

2015-03-13 Jennifer Renney posted:

On 11 March 2015, ACAS published a revised Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. The revisions to the code relate solely to the choice of a companion at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, and have been made to reflect Employment Appeal Tribunal rulings on how the right to be accompanied ought to be exercised.

Perhaps the most striking statement in the new code is this:

‘The statutory right is to be accompanied by a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union … Employers must agree to a worker’s request to be accompanied by any companion from one of these categories.’

Equally striking is the removal from the code of the following statement that appeared in the previous version:

‘... workers must make a reasonable request [to be accompanied]…. it would not normally be reasonable for workers to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing nor would it be reasonable for a worker to ask to be accompanied by a companion from a remote geographical location if someone suitable and willing was available on site.’

Therefore, it is now clear that an employee has an absolute right to be accompanied by any willing companion who is a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union.

While the new code encourages workers to make sensible choices about their companions, the employer no longer has the right to refuse to allow the chosen companion into the hearing on the grounds that the choice made is unsuitable for some reason, such as potential prejudice to the hearing or logistical difficulties.

Although the ACAS code still retains the statement that requests to be accompanied must be reasonable, case law indicates that only the request to be accompanied must be reasonable, not the choice of companion.

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