The EAT has ruled that employees exercising the statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing are entitled to have present whomever they choose, provided the individual is a relevant union representative or work colleague. Employers cannot refuse a particular companion on the grounds that their presence is unreasonable. The requirement that a request to be accompanied is 'reasonable' does not extend to the identity of the companion.
The ruling contradicts the relevant Acas Code of Practice and is surprising given that a particular choice of companion might be unreasonable due to a conflict of interest or because their presence might prejudice the hearing. However, the maximum compensation for breach of the right to be accompanied is two weeks' pay (subject to the statutory weekly pay cap) and, in this case, only nominal compensation was due, as the employee suffered no detriment (another companion attended). (Toal v GB Oils, EAT)