The Right to be Accompanied

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Gnahoua v Abellio London Ltd

Employees have the right to be accompanied by a colleague, or a trade union representative or official at a disciplinary hearing. An employer who breaches this could face a tribunal claim and the possibility of having to pay compensation of up to two weeks’ pay.

Abellio had not allowed Mr Gnahoua to be accompanied at his appeal hearing by his chosen companion – one of two brothers from the PTSC Union. The company had a policy that neither individual was allowed to take part in disciplinary or grievance hearings because of their association with dishonesty and with threatening behaviour towards members of staff. Abellio told Mr Gnahoua that he could be accompanied by another member of the PTSC Union, but that did not happen.

Although Abellio had denied Mr Gnahoua the right to be accompanied, it was acknowledged that the company had good reason to refuse to go along with the employee’s choice of companion. And as Mr Gnahoua had not suffered any loss or detriment, he was awarded nominal compensation of just £2.

Employers should not see this as giving the green light to object to an employee’s choice of companion. The tribunal pointed out the general rule that employers should not choose the companion on an employee’s behalf, or veto an employee’s choice. But, Abellio’s stance on this was not criticised; its objection was on strong grounds.