Often we are telephoned by people under threat of dismissal who ask if we will represent them at a disciplinary hearing a redundancy ‘consultation’ or at an appeal following dismissal. Sometimes we are asked to attend grievance hearings too. The answer has always been the same- ‘no’.
Our refusal is not because we are unwilling to attend but because the statutory rules are clear. An employee is only entitled to be accompanied or represented by a colleague, a trade union official or someone certified by a trade union as a qualified companion.
Sometimes an employer will allow a family member or friend to accompany someone at a meeting but this is a concession and not a right. Employers will never allow a solicitor to attend. Perhaps employers imagine that solicitors know something they do not and will be able to stop them reaching the result they were probably hoping for.
Now there are signs that the situation may be changing. In two recent cases the Court of Appeal has decided that it might be possible in some circumstances for someone working in the public sector to be accompanied by a lawyer at a disciplinary hearing.
In the second of these cases the Court of Appeal decided that if there was more than just the job at risk- if dismissal might prevent someone working in their career at all- then legal representation should be allowed.
Both cases are on their way to the Supreme Court for a final decision so watch this space. It is possible that the Supreme Court will suggest that the right exists whether or not a job is in the public sector or not and equally possible that the ‘right’ will disappear altogether.