A companion or trade union official is defined in the ACAS disciplinary and grievance code of practice as a right afforded to an employee who is going to a formal grievance or disciplinary hearing. In any formal written invitation this right to be accompanied should have been spelt out to you. Then the next question you have to weigh up, is who should I bring?
If you are a member of a union you might find it useful to bring a trade union representative. Trade union officials should be trained in the role of a companion and other areas of employment law and should be able to advise you well and fight for your best interests. Often you find however, that the union representative in your employer might not be as effective as someone from the unions head office or local regional office. If you pay your union fees (and these are not cheap!) make sure you request someone trained in employment law to help support you in the meeting.
I’m not a member of a union, should I still bring a colleague?
The better question to ask might be, how do you feel about the prospective meeting? Or even how much do you trust your employer?
Consider things like note taking accuracy and ultimately what you have to loose if the meeting doesn’t go the right way. Perhaps you feel your employer has you banged to rights and you have made a mistake, but don’t think it’s likely that it will end in your job terminating, so are quite happy to take the disciplinary and subsequent warning and therefore you don’t want to share that experience with a colleague or union rep.
If on the other hand, you feel the hearing is unjust or you have had a tough time of late perhaps resulting in a grievance, having some support you might be a good idea.
Asking a colleague can be daunting especially because they might say no.
Remember if they do, that’s not a personal rejection, people often don’t like getting involved in these scenarios for fear of either letting the person down through not being a good advisor or because management might judge them for ‘getting involved’. If you are really keen to persuade them to accompany you, sometimes it can be helpful to spell out what your expectations are. Some suggestions might include;
- That you are ideally not looking for them to do anything other than be there for support. That having someone present will give me comfort enabling me to better work through my thoughts and responses plus keep my nerves in check.
- That you are really just hoping that they will take (brief/key point) notes on your behalf.
- Just having them there not saying much but keeping you calm or strong or composed would be a great support.
If you are going to a disciplinary hearing soon, consider downloading our free guide on how to prepare in advance of the disciplinary hearing. You can get it here.
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