All workers and employees have the right to be accompanied by a union rep, union official or a colleague at formal disciplinary and grievance meetings at work.
In many workplaces, the grievance and disciplinary procedures will only apply to 'employees'. 'Workers' may therefore not have a right to raise a grievance in the workplace and employers may dismiss them without following a disciplinary procedure.
When does the right apply in disciplinary procedures?
The right to be accompanied applies to any disciplinary meeting which could result in you being issued with a formal warning or some other disciplinary action being taken, e.g. when your employer is considering demotion or dismissal. The right also applies to disciplinary appeal meetings.
You do not have a right to be accompanied at an investigatory or fact-finding meeting with your employer. Although in many unionised workplaces, your union will have agreed with your employer that the right to be accompanied will apply to these meetings.
When does the right apply in grievance procedures?
The right to be accompanied applies where you use your employer's grievance procedure to complain that your employer is not treating you lawfully - i.e. where you want to complain that your employer is breaching your statutory or contractual rights.
You do not have a right to be accompanied at a meeting where you want to ask for an improvement in terms and conditions of employment, for example, a pay rise.
What can my companion do and say during the meeting?
Your employer must allow your companion to:
- Address the meeting
- To put and sum up your case
- Respond on your behalf to any views expressed at the meeting and
- confer with you during the meeting.
What if my union rep can't attend the meeting?
If your union rep cannot attend the meeting arranged by your employer, you should inform your employer as soon as possible. You have the right to propose an alternative date within five working days when both you and your rep can attend.
Issued: 21 July, 2011