The Acas codes of practice set the minimum standard of fairness that employers should follow. Employment tribunals use these codes when deciding on relevant cases and employers are expected to have met or exceeded these standards.
Your right to be accompanied
You are entitled to bring a ‘companion’ with you to formal meetings such as disciplinary and grievance hearings. You should tell the manager hearing any case who you wish to accompany you so that arrangements can be made in good time. So, who can you bring?
You have a choice of who can be your 'companion':
- a work colleague
- a workplace trade union representative who's certified or trained in acting as a companion
- an official employed by a trade union
As a member of Accord, we will help appoint an accredited rep or local Accord officer to support and represent you at formal meetings. If you've been invited to a meeting and you need our support, send us a representation request or contact your local Accord officer.
Under discrimination law, employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. This might mean allowing someone else to attend, for example a support worker or someone with knowledge of the disability and its effects.
Employers can, but do not have to, allow companions who do not fall within the above categories. For example, some employment contracts might allow for a professional support body, partner, spouse or legal representative.
A note on informal meetings:
You do not have the same right to representation at informal meetings. However, you may be allowed to bring a companion with you if your employer agrees - this includes union reps and local Accord officers. Where this is agreed, it is for wellbeing support, and means we wouldn't have the same opportunity to contribute to the meeting as formal meetings (unless invited to do so). However, we still provide all the same support but we may prompt you to take a break so that we can discuss with your our thoughts as we'd be unable to express these during the meeting.
What can Accord do as my companion?
When Accord provides representation for you, we're more than just a bystander or note taker. With the professional support of our reps and officers, we can help you to structure your case, get across your points and raise relevant points of policy. So let's take a closer look at what we can do for you.
Before you attend a meeting, our officers and reps can:
- We'll meet with you, or discuss with you your case in advance of any meeting.
- Ensure you have all the documentation you need.
- Help you to draft letters including grievances and appeals, and advise you on how best to structure your arguments.
- We'll help you prepare your case, provide you guidance, and check over any documentation you wish to submit, but it remains your responsibility to prepare for your case. Our officers and reps won't do this for you.
- Let you know what your options are and guide you to reach a decision. We may recommend a particular course of action, and this will be guided by our expertise and judgement, but the decision on how to proceed will always remain with you. Your decision won't affect how we represent you.
- We'll advise you on factors that may be detrimental to your case or that we think may be deciding factors on the outcome such as in disciplinary proceedings.
During meetings, our officers and reps can:
- Provide a statement either verbal or written - we usually do this as an opening statement, or a closing/summary statement. Either way, this is an opportunity for us to highlight points of policy, failures of investigation, and your main points.
- Put forward or sum up your case throughout the meeting.
- Respond to views that are expressed throughout the meeting, including adding to or clarifying points that are made. They can't ordinarily answer questions on your behalf through.
- Ensure the meeting is conducted fairly, and that your wellbeing is looked after including ensuring you get access to breaks when you need them. They'll also ensure you've had access to relevant evidence, and that you have proper opportunity to respond.
- We don't routinely act as a note taker for our members as it's not easy to be engaged in the content of the meeting when you're focused on taking notes - however if you ask us to we will take a record of the meeting so that you can compare against your employers notes. However, we may note key points which will help us to check the employers notes, or to remind us of points to make when we have an opportunity to contribute.
After meetings, we'll:
- Ensure you're comfortable with the content of the meeting, and ensure from a wellbeing perspective that you're okay.
- Review meeting notes with you - but it's your responsibility to send these to your representative if this hasn't been agreed with the employer to send them directly to our rep or officer.
- Review the outcome with you and discuss next steps or alternative options - but it's your responsibility to send the outcome to your representative. Employers don't routinely do this unless it's been agreed to do so.
- Should you get to the stage of wishing to submit a legal claim, we'll advise you on any deadlines that apply, and we'll make an assessment on the legal merits, likely chances of success, and the economics of a case to help us determine whether we'll offer you legal representation.