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2 and a half years
Sections 10 to 15 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 set out the right for employees to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a fellow worker at a disciplinary or grievance hearing and the protections afforded to those who exercise, or attempt to exercise, that right.
Where an employee's chosen companion is unavailable at the time proposed for the hearing, the employee has the right to suggest an alternative time which is not more than five working days later. If that time is reasonable the employer must rearrange the hearing for that time. In practice it would be advisable for an employee (or their companion) to give a range of available times, or for the parties to seek to agree a time.
In any event the employer should not have just proceeded without giving you the option of finding an alternative companion and they appear to have done this on purpose as they did not want anyone ‘distracting’ them on the day. So yes, this could amount to a refusal to allow you to be accompanied.
However, you cannot claim automatic unfair dismissal unless the actual reason for the dismissal was your attempt to try and be accompanied. It could easily be that you were denied the right to have a companion but the reasons for the dismissal were not because of your request to be accompanied, but for something completely different. This would not be an automatic unfair dismissal. It could still be an unfair dismissal if the employer had not carried out a proper investigation or be able to justify that dismissal was an appropriate penalty, but it is not linked to your right to be accompanied.
For a failure by the employer to allow you to be accompanied you can only make a claim in the tribunal to seek up to 2 weeks’ pay as compensation.
Hope this clarifies your position? If you could please let me know that would be great, thank you
Just one more question please. Is the Tribunal likely to take a dim view on this in practice. How can I home this in to my advantage - no disciplinary decision has been made (manager wants to investigate and consider matters further) should I now therefore raise a grievance now, or hold back, and if dismissed, raise it in my ET1. There is past history between me and employer, me having recently won a discrimination case (in part) against them.
After the last question is answered I am finished and ready to pay. How do I do this?