Most employers are aware of the fact that employees have a legal right to be accompanied to a disciplinary or grievance hearing by a colleague or trade union representative. However, one employee who was denied the right has been awarded just £2 in compensation in a recent employment tribunal case.
There has been very little case law on this particular statutory right and, until a few years ago, most employers took the view that they would be permitted to refuse an “unreasonable” companion. However, the 2013 case of Toal v GB Oils Ltd confirmed in strong terms that the right is absolute; employers have little scope to refuse a companion if they fall within the statutory categories of employee or trade union representative.
In the recent case of Gnahoua v Abellio London Ltd, the claimant sought to bring a trade union rep from a newly formed union in his workplace. The PTSC union had been set up by two brothers, both of whom had been banned from attending workplace meetings because of alleged dishonest and threatening behaviour. One of the brothers had previously been dismissed from the company for harassment and intimidation of a Unite shop steward. His ensuing tribunal claim, at which he was represented by the other brother, was struck out after it was alleged that the men had falsified a witness statement.
While recognising that the claimant had been denied the right to be accompanied by a trade union member of his choice and therefore his statutory rights had been breached, the tribunal found that the employer had good reasons for breaching the right and awarded just £2 in compensation.