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Acas has published a draft revised Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures in relation to the right to be accompanied at disciplinary and grievance hearings.
ACAS have inserted two new paragrpahs (14 to 16) into the Code, and identical paragraphs (36 to 38) relating to employee accompaniement at disciplinary and grievance meetings respectively.
The issues of "who can accompany a worker" and "what is a reasonable request", have been separated into different paragraphs to make it clear that the statutory requirement for a worker's request to be accompanied to be "reasonable" applies to the making of the request, not to the worker's choice of companion.
The Code has also been revised to confirm that:
Employers must agree to a worker's request to be accompanied by any chosen companion from one of the statutory categories set out in Section 10(3) of the Employment Relations Act 1999, a fellow worker, trade union representative or official. (Paragraphs 14 and 36.)
Workers can change their mind on their choice of companion. (Paragraphs 14 and 36.)
An employer should be given enough time to make any necessary arrangements to allow the chosen companion to attend the meeting, whilst also making it clear that a request to be accompanied does not have to be in writing or within a prescribed time frame. (Paragraphs 15 and 37.)
A worker should provide their employer with the name of the companion where possible and specify whether it is a fellow worker, trade union representative or official. (Paragraphs 15 and 37.)
An alternative time must be arranged by an employer that is reasonable and within five days of the original date, as provided for in the statute. (Paragraphs 16 and 38.)
Whilst the ACAS update to its statutory guidance is aimed at ensuring it is consistent with the current legal position on accompaniment at disciplinary and grievance hearings, it is worth noting that ACAS also updated the non-statutory ACAS Discipline and Grievance at Work Guidance(page 24) and in doing so have highlighted that employers can allow workers to be accompanied by companions that are not a fellow worker, trade union representative or official.