What redress is available if an employer fails to permit a worker to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing?
If the employer fails to comply with a reasonable request by the worker to be accompanied, or fails to postpone the meeting to a mutually convenient time within five days when the companion is unable to attend the scheduled meeting, the worker can complain to an employment tribunal. Where the complaint is well founded the tribunal will order the employer to pay up to two weeks' pay as compensation (subject to the statutory cap on the amount of a week's pay).
The failure may also be taken into account by a tribunal when deciding whether or not any subsequent dismissal was fair. In Talon Engineering Ltd v Smith EAT/0236/17, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the employer's refusal to postpone a disciplinary hearing for two weeks to allow the employee's union official to accompany her made her dismissal unfair. This was the case even though the employee was requesting a postponement of more than five working days and the employer was therefore not in breach of the statutory right to be accompanied.