An employee may be entitled to have a lawyer at a disciplinary hearing where the outcome of the hearing could deprive him of any future in that profession.

The statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing is limited to a work colleague or trade union official.

The High Court has now ruled that a school teacher's human right to a fair trial entitled him to have legal representation at his hearing for gross misconduct concerning sexual impropriety. This was because such a dismissal would be reported to the Secretary of State, who would then rely on the facts found by the employer in deciding whether to forbid the employee indefinitely from further employment involving children.

Where the potential consequences of a disciplinary sanction include losing one's future career, employers should consider allowing requests for legal representation (even if their own procedure expressly prohibits this). This will be particularly relevant to employers providing education or care services to children or vulnerable adults. The same issues may also apply to other regulated professions such as financial services, where an employer's report to the FSA of a dismissal for dishonesty could prevent the employee obtaining FSA registration to work in that sector again. (G v X and Y, HC)