Employer made to pay £2 for breaching employee’s right to be accompanied
04 May 2017 #Discipline & Grievance
An employee has a statutory right to be accompanied by either a trade union representative or colleague at a grievance or disciplinary hearing. If an employer prevents an employee from bringing their chosen companion, they will be liable to pay compensation of up to two weeks’ pay.
In the recent case of Gnahoua v Abellio London Ltd, Mr Gnahoua was dismissed after he had been caught looking at his iPad whilst driving his bus and appealed the decision. Whilst he was originally represented by Unite at his disciplinary hearing, he requested to be accompanied by his two brothers (both PTSC union officials) at his appeal. Abellio refused Mr Gnahoua’s request as it had banned both brothers from accompanying any of its employees given previous incidents of threatening behaviour and allegations of dishonesty. Although Abellio made it clear that it was happy for him to be accompanied by any other member of the PTSC union, he attended alone. His appeal was not upheld and he subsequently brought a tribunal claim.
As part of his claim, Mr Gnahoua complained that Abellio had breached his right to be accompanied. The Tribunal agreed that there had been a technical breach, but only awarded nominal compensation of £2 as it found that no loss or detriment had been suffered and the disciplinary hearing had been conducted in considerate and thorough fashion.
The case is helpful in that, provided that employers can demonstrate that a clear and thorough process has been followed, they are likely to avoid any significant claim for detriment if they are found to have breached the right to be accompanied. However, advice should be sought when deciding whether to refuse an employee’s request as this could affect the fairness of a disciplinary or grievance process and could also result in an uplift of 25% on any compensation awarded (for a breach of the ACAS Code).
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