Workers have a statutory right to be accompanied at disciplinary and grievance hearings, so long as the companion is a fellow worker, trade union representative or an official employed by a trade union.
The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, which provides guidance on conducting disciplinary and grievances matters, had stated that it would not normally be reasonable for workers to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing, or whose geographical location would be prohibitive, if someone suitable and willing was on site.
Following the case of Toal and others v GB Oils (2013), ACAS has now amended their Code of Practice essentially removing any restriction on who the worker can choose to be their companion. Therefore, a worker is able to choose whoever they like to accompany them at a disciplinary hearing if they fall within one of the recognised categories referred to above. The amended Code also gives some useful further guidance regarding the right to be accompanied. The revised Code can be found here.
Not allowing an employee to bring their chosen representative could give rise to a claim for breach of a statutory right for which a worker could be awarded damages. In addition, if an employee is successful in an unfair dismissal claim and the ACAS Code has not been followed, an uplift of up to 25% can be made to any award of damages.