Acas to amend Code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures

Acas is to amend its "Code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures" following an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling on the choice of companion.

The statutory right for a worker to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing (in s.10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999) applies if the worker "reasonably requests" to be accompanied.

In Toal and another v GB Oils Ltd [2013] IRLR 696 EAT, the employer had refused two employees' request to be accompanied at a grievance meeting by a particular union official. At the EAT it argued that the word "reasonably" applies to the choice of companion as well as the request to be accompanied. However, the EAT held that there is no requirement for an employee's choice of companion to accompany him or her to a disciplinary or grievance meeting to be reasonable, provided that the companion falls within one of the permitted categories (ie he or she is a fellow worker or trade union official). The EAT rejected guidance in the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, which states that "it would not normally be reasonable for workers to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing nor would it be reasonable for a worker to ask to be accompanied by a companion from a remote geographical location if someone suitable and willing was available on site".

Acas has announced that it will amend the code of practice to reflect the EAT decision.