The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance
Procedures has been revised to clarify who can accompany a worker to a disciplinary
or grievance meeting. The revised Code
is currently awaiting parliamentary approval.
The changes have been made to bring the Code in line with the
EAT’s decision in Toal v GB Oils. In
that case, the EAT held that workers have the right to be accompanied at these
meetings by a companion as long as they are from one of the categories listed
in the legislation. These are trade
union officials, certified union representatives and fellow workers. Previously, it had been assumed that whether
a request was ‘reasonable’ or not did not depend only on the category of the
companion. Factors such as the potential
for a companion to prejudice the meeting or involve a conflict of interest were
thought to be relevant. The Code
also allowed an employer to consider whether it was reasonable for a worker to
choose a companion from a remote geographical location where someone suitable
and willing was available on site.
Employers will now need to review their Disciplinary and
Grievance Procedures to ensure that they are in line with the revised
Code. The key points to note are:
This may not be the end of changes to the Code as ACAS have
been asked by BIS to undertake a wider consultation on the Code.
Employers must agree to a worker’s request to be accompanied
by a companion from one of the listed categories.
It is a matter of good practice (but not a legal
requirement) for the worker to bear in mind the practicalities of the
arrangements. For example, a worker may
choose a companion from the same site rather than a colleague from a remote
The worker’s request does not have to be in writing or made
within a set time frame, but the worker should give the employer advance notice
of the name of the companion and where possible which category they come from.