Possibly, but only if you are a public sector employer and the charges against the employee are sufficiently serious.
In a recent decision involving a teaching assistant accused of inappropriate behaviour with a 15-year-old boy, the High Court held that the employee had the right to be legally represented at the internal disciplinary and appeal hearing (R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School). The Court took into account the serious nature of the allegations against the employee and the potential consequences for his career. The nature of the allegations meant that the School had a duty to inform the Secretary of State of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing. This could have resulted in the employee being prohibited from working with children indefinitely, effectively bringing his teaching career to an end.
The School argued that the employee had a statutory right to be accompanied at the disciplinary hearing by a work colleague or trade union official and that he had no legal right to bring his lawyer along, but the Court accepted the employee’s arguments that this did not afford him sufficient protection in the circumstances.
Private sector employers have nothing to fear from this particular decision because the employee’s claim was based on the European Convention of Human Rights, in particular the right to a fair trial under Article 6. The Convention has no direct effect in disputes involving private sector employers unless they are providing services for a public authority in which case it may be relevant.
The Judge was keen to stress that his decision was confined to the particular facts of this case but it is not difficult to imagine public sector employees seeking to rely on this in situations involving serious allegations of misconduct, whether equally serious in fact or not. In that sense it has challenged the view that disciplinary and grievance proceedings are not generally susceptible to scrutiny under Article 6.