You have a legal right to be accompanied at all Formal Meetings with your employer regarding any problems or concerns you may have at work. But this companion may only be a work colleague or a representative of a trade union.
Your legal right to be accompanied
The law is clear.
If you are to attend a Formal Meeting with your employer on any issue regarding your employment – whether it be a disciplinary, grievance, redundancy, performance, discrimination, sickness absence or harassment matter – your legal right to be accompanied is set out in Section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999.
But the legislation states that the only types of person you are permitted to insist upon being accompanied by, must be:
- Employed by, or an official of, a trade union who is “certified in writing as having experience of, or as having received training in, acting as a worker’s companion at disciplinary or grievance hearings, or”
- “Another of the employer’s workers” (i.e. one of your work colleagues).
No-one else. Not a solicitor. Nor a personal friend or member of your family .
So, if you want professional representation at work, this can only be provided by an official or representative of a trade union. WRS can arrange this for you, even if you have not previously been a trade union member.
Why you should exercise your right to be accompanied
Just think how much rides on you being treated fairly at work. Maybe your house? Your standard of living? Your personal wellbeing? And if eventually you had to leave, it would take two years working in another job before you acquired legal rights to protect you from further unfair treatment.
Meanwhile, attending any Formal Meeting concerning your job can certainly be a daunting experience. The Hearing Manager will be more senior than you, will be accompanied by a Notetaker and perhaps someone from HR.
So, if you attend a meeting on your own, you will immediately be under pressure. For something so important, it really is not sensible to be on your own!
Who should accompany you?
Although not ideal, the very least you should do is arrange for a work colleague to accompany you.
They may not know the ins and outs of disciplinary and grievance proceedings – or necessarily understand your legal rights – but at least they will be able to give you moral support. They will also reduce the chances of you being treated improperly, through acting as a witness to the meeting. And by taking notes on your behalf, you will be able to concentrate on presenting your case and answering any questions.
But let’s face it – having an experienced trade union professional accompanying and representing you is most certainly best. They can give you confidence. Guide you through proceedings. And present your case in the most effective, compelling and persuasive way.
If you are already a union member, your trade union should make arrangements for you to be accompanied.
If not, WRS can provide you with a union representative.
What can your union representative do?
Importantly, your union representative can help you prepare a Written Statement in advance of your Formal Meeting, which will be critical to your chances of getting the outcome you deserve.
But also, during your Formal Meeting they can:
- Make an opening statement at the beginning, setting out your case and version of events.
- Ask questions on your behalf.
- Act as a witness to proceedings, which invariably means the hearing will be handled more sensitively than might otherwise have been the case.
- Whilst not ordinarily answering questions on your behalf, confer with you on answers you may or may not want to give; calling for adjournments to brief you where necessary.
- Object and put a halt to unfair lines of questioning.
- Ensure that proceedings are conducted strictly in accordance with ACAS requirements.
- Recognise and take notes of key points; ensuring these are recorded in the minutes.
- Present a closing statement on your behalf, summing up your key points and arguments
If you are supported by Workplace Representation Services, your WRS Representative will present your case in a confident and compelling way. They will present and elaborate on your Written Statement to exercise influence and control over the direction of the hearing, and how your case is understood. And they will use their considerable knowledge and experience to secure for you the fairest outcome possible.
What if your companion cannot attend on the meeting date offered?
If your representative is unable to attend on the meeting date proposed by your employer, it is obliged to be reasonable in trying to agree an alternative date. The expectation is that wherever possible, this should be within five working days of the original date.
Furthermore, if at a meeting you attend you are told only for the first time that you have a right to be accompanied, you should insist that the meeting stops. And that an alternative date be arranged for when you can be accompanied. If your employer refuses, it could be required to pay you two weeks’ salary as compensation for disregarding your right to be accompanied, and up to 25% more compensation if you take your case to employment tribunal.
If you have a problem at work, WRS can provide you with all the support you need, by
- Evaluating your case, how best to construct it and your prospects of success.
- Guiding you on how best to prepare for your Formal Meeting.
- Producing for you a compelling Written Statement, that gives you the very best prospect of success.
- Arranging for a representative of a trade union to accompany you at any Formal Meeting with your employer – presenting your case in by far the most compelling and effective way.
There simply is no better option … especially if you are not already a member of a trade union.