And The Law Says

Acas updates statutory guidance on disciplinary and grievance meetings

February 10, 2015


Acas has amended its guidance in the Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, by inserting new paragraphs 14 to 16, and identical paragraphs 36 to 38, relating to the right of accompaniment in grievance meetings. The change has been made in light of the EAT decision in Toal v GB Oils, where it was held that a worker had the right to be accompanied in Section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 where a “reasonable request” was made. The new amendments bring clarity to stipulate that “reasonable” applies to the making of the request, as opposed to the worker’s choice of companion.

The updated Code of Practice also states that:

  • Employers must agree to a worker’s request to be accompanied by any chosen companion from one of the statutory categories set out in Section 10(3) of the Employment Relations Act 1999, a fellow worker, a trade union representative or official.
  • Workers can change their mind on their choice of companion.
  • An employer should be given enough time to make any necessary arrangements to allow the chosen companion to attend the meeting. The employer should also ensure clarity has been reached that a request to be accompanied does not need to be in writing or within a time frame.
  • A worker should provide their employer with the name of the companion where possible, providing additional detail of whether it is a fellow worker, trade union representative or official.
  • An alternative time must be arranged by an employer that is reasonable and within 5 days of the original date, as provided for in the statute.

At present, this reformed Code is pending Parliamentary approval.

Sunil Abeyewickreme Says: The case of Toal v GB Oils called into question the Code, which all employers and employees are required to follow.  It is extremely rare for a statutory code to be flawed in any respect and considered to not accurately reflect the law, but that was the finding of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.  These necessary changes to the Code of Practice are welcomed as the issues in the case have been addressed and it is hoped that the Code will be consistent with the law and remain ‘fit for purpose”.   It is clear that employees have an obligation to make their request to be accompanied in a manner that it is ‘clearly understood and provide good time for it to be considered by the employer’ and employers are clearer that they cannot refuse such requests except in very limited circumstances.  This is good news for both employers and employees as the Code has become clearer.

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