Disciplinary investigations an employees choice of companion

Earlier this year, Acas amended its non-statutory guidance to make it clear that businesses can allow workers to be accompanied to a disciplinary hearing by companions who are not trade union representatives or work colleagues. It did not amend the Code as it did not wish to create a burden on employers, but clearly employers will always be in a position to exercise their discretion when deciding who to allow as a companion.

The High Court has recently held that a university’s refusal to allow a representative of a professional defence organisation to accompany an employee at an investigation meeting concerning serious allegations of misconduct was unfair and a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. Employers should be aware of the potential seriousness of allowing employees to attend hearings unaccompanied, especially where the stakes are high and the matters under discussion are complex or technical.