ACAS has revised its Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. The change is narrow and relates to the right to be accompanied. 

Following case law, Toal v GB Oils Limited, which concerned a refusal to allow two employees to be accompanied by a companion of their choice, ACAS accepted that the Code suggested “an erroneous interpretation of the law” and launched a consultation which closed in January last year.

As a result, the wording of the Code has been changed to make it clear that employers are not entitled to reject a worker’s choice of companion if that companion is drawn from one of the statutory categories, namely “a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union” and the request itself is made in a reasonable manner. The Code states that a request does not have to be in writing but that, for example, a worker should “provide enough time for the employer to deal with the companion's attendance at the meeting” and let the employer “know in advance the name of the companion where possible and whether they are a fellow worker or trade union official or representative.”

To prevent confusion, the Code now also makes clear that its guidance that “a worker may choose to be accompanied by a companion who is suitable, willing and available on site rather than someone from a geographically remote location” is a matter of good practice only and not a legal requirement.

This narrow change may precede future, more far-reaching amendments to the Code as BIS have requested a wider consultation on the Code as a whole. The revised Code is currently before Parliament awaiting final approval.

You can read ACAS’s consultation response here.