“Can I Bring A Lawyer?” – Employee Rights At Disciplinary Hearings

What rights do workers/employees have at disciplinary or grievance hearings?


Who is legally entitled to attend?


Both workers and employees have the legal right to be accompanied to a disciplinary or grievance hearing. However, in accordance with section 10 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 those rights are limited to being either a trade union representative or a colleague. The right for the individual to be accompanied by either of these two is absolute and regardless of whether their choice is considered to be inappropriate.


Are they entitled to bring a lawyer?


It is not unusual for an individual to ask to attend or be legally represented at a disciplinary or grievance hearing by a lawyer. However, unless there is a contractual agreement there is no legal rights over and above attending with a colleague or trade union representative.

That being said, in limited circumstances the individual may be able to establish a right to legal representation where a failure to allow may impeach on a fair trial, but this is extremely rare and relates to proceedings where an organisation could have the power to prevent someone from practising their profession.


Must I agree to a postponement of the disciplinary / grievance hearing?


In accordance with section 10(5) of the Employment Relations Act 1999, if the individual has chosen a companion who will not be available at the time proposed for the hearing by the employer, the employer must postpone the hearing so long as the individual satisfies the following:


  1. An alternative time must be reasonable; and
  2. It falls before the end of the period of five working days beginning with the first working day after the day proposed by the employer.


Do I have an obligation to make any reasonable adjustments for the hearing?


Employers should be mindful of the potential pitfalls they could face should they follow a stringent approach on who can accompany an individual to this hearing. Where that individual has a qualifying disability, employers have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments. Where it might be appropriate to allow a friend or family member to attend with them, it is strongly advised to consider this as part of a reasonable adjustment, to avoid an individual experiencing a substantial disadvantage.


If you have an employment law issues, please do not hesitate to contact one of our Employment Law Specialists. We have offices in Lincoln, Hull and London and advise on all aspects of Employment Law. Please call us today on 01522 370193.


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