In December 2013 Acas consulted on changes to its Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures to reflect the EAT ruling inToal v GB Oils. A revised draft has now been published for parliamentary approval, clarifying the right to a companion.
Toal concerned employees’ right to a companion at a disciplinary or grievance hearing provided they make a ‘reasonable request’. The current version of the Code assumed that the quality of reasonableness applied to the identity of the companion, such that a request would normally be unreasonable if the companion’s presence would prejudice the hearing or involve a conflict of interest, or if the companion were from a remote geographical location and someone else suitable and willing were available on site. The EAT ruled that this was wrong and that an employee is free to choose such a companion (provided they are from the specified categories of companion, ie work colleague or trade union representative/official). The new revised Code now reflects this. Further details are included in our blog.
Employers will need to review and update their disciplinary and grievance policies to reflect the revised Code.