He informs his employer of this but the employer refuses to allow Mr A to attend the meeting over concerns that his behaviour may be disruptive. Mr T chooses another trade union official and the meeting goes ahead.
Unhappy with his employer’s actions, Mr T takes his case to an employment tribunal claiming it was a breach of the Employment Relations Act 1999 to prevent his first choice companion.
OUTCOME: The tribunal rules that, by choosing an alternative, Mr T had waived his right to claim a breach of his statutory right to be accompanied. Mr T appeals this decision and his case is heard by the employment appeal tribunal (EAT) which reverses the earlier ruling. The EAT finds that an employee is entitled to insist on his first choice and by refusing such a request, the employer was in breach of the statutory right.
- The ruling suggests that, provided the companion falls within the statutory definition of a work colleague or trade union representative, the employer has no right to refuse their attendance at a grievance meeting.
- Be aware of proposed changes to the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures which clearly state workers have the right to choose whoever they wish as their companion.
- The ACAS code of practice retains a “good practice” requirement for workers to have some regard of the effect a chosen companion will have on the process itself. Companions who may be disruptive or not in the employee’s best interests should be discouraged.