Acas has finally issued its response to the consultation it launched back in December 2013 seeking views on revisions to the sections of the statutory Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures dealing with the right to be accompanied.
Acas has included new paragraphs 14-16 and 36-38 in the Code. These changes have been made to take into account the EAT’s decision in Toal v GB Oils Ltd that employers are not entitled to reject a worker’s choice of companion (even if they have concerns about the choice of representative), provided that companion is a fellow worker, a trade union representative or an official employed by a trade union (i.e. is in one of the categories in section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999) and the request itself is made in a reasonable manner.
The revised Code can be found at the back of the response (Annex A) and it has now been put before Parliament for final approval.
Employers should review their own disciplinary and grievance procedures to ensure that the provisions dealing with the right to be accompanied at disciplinary and grievance hearings reflect the wording of the revised Code and also that the relevant managers handling these matters are aware of this small but important change in practice. Remember that the penalty for denying an employee his rights under section 10 can be up to 2 weeks’ pay.
Acas has also been asked by the Government to carry out a wider consultation on the Disciplinary and Grievance Code, as it has been 5 years since it was last reviewed. Further changes to it might therefore follow at some stage, though the lag here between consultation and response in relation to a single point does not suggest that it will be any time soon!