Do employees have the right to be accompanied at disciplinary investigation meetings?

Employees do not have the statutory right to be accompanied at disciplinary investigation meetings. Under s.13(4) of the Employment Relations Act 1999, the right to be accompanied applies to only those disciplinary hearings that could result in: the administration of a formal warning; the taking of some other action (for example dismissal or other disciplinary sanctions); or the confirmation of a warning or other action already issued or taken (ie an appeal hearing).

Although the statutory right does not apply to an investigatory meeting, an employee may have the right to be accompanied under the employer's own disciplinary procedure.

If the employee has not been given the right to be accompanied, the employer should be careful to ensure that an investigatory meeting does not turn into a disciplinary hearing that could result in a warning or some other sanction. If sufficient evidence has been gathered at any point in the meeting, or if the employee admits misconduct, the employer should adjourn the meeting and reconvene it at a later date when the employee can exercise his or her right to be accompanied.