UK: Employers may need to go further than strict compliance with the statutory right to a companion to ensure fairness

Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied to a disciplinary or grievance hearing by their chosen companion and, if that companion is unavailable on the date set, to have the hearing postponed by 5 working days. A failure to comply with this right is likely to render a dismissal procedurally unfair in most cases, but the corollary is not true. In Talon Engineering Ltd v Smith, a dismissal was found to be procedurally unfair where the employer refused to postpone the hearing by 10 days to allow the chosen companion to attend. The tribunal had not erred in concluding that the employer had acted unreasonably in refusing the request for a short postponement based on genuine unavailability, particularly given the employees’ 21 years’ unblemished service.

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Filed under Jurisdiction: UK, Termination of employment

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