ACAS to revise its Code of Practice on accompaniment at grievance hearings

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Following an EAT case in August this year (Toal and another v GB Oils Ltd [1]), ACAS has announced that it will revise its Code of Practice on the right to be accompanied at grievance hearings. In Toal, GB Oils had argued that it was not reasonable for a worker to have a companion who could be prejudicial to the grievance hearing. The EAT disagreed and found that as long as a worker’s choice of companion falls within the categories set out in section 10(3) of the Employment Relations Act 1999 (i.e. someone who is a trade union official, certified union representative or fellow worker) then the actual choice of individual does not, of itself, have to be reasonable.

The ACAS Code currently states: “It would not normally be reasonable for workers to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing nor would it be reasonable for a worker to ask to be accompanied by a companion from a remote geographical location if someone suitable and willing was available on site”.

The decision in Toal clearly contradicts this, so ACAS will amend this section of the Code to reflect the EAT’s findings.

On the plus side for employers, the EAT did point out that where the statutory right to accompaniment is breached but the worker has suffered no loss or detriment as a result then only ‘nominal’ compensation should be awarded (the maximum compensation is two weeks’ pay) and it went on to suggest that a ‘nominal’ figure would be in the region of £2!

[1] UKEAT/0569/12