Financial & Legal News

INSIGHT: Give Employees the Choice of Accompaniment, High Court Rules

  • Posted on

A recent case in the High Court has highlighted the importance of giving employees the choice of who to accompany them to disciplinary hearings. Susan Mayall, head of employment at Pearson, explains.

The High Court’s decision in the case of Stevens v University of Birmingham, ruled that the denial of choice of representative for disciplinary investigation - beyond statutory or contractual entitlement - was a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence.

In this particular case, the claimant was the subject of allegations relating to his role as chief investigator to clinical trials of diabetes patients, which later led to a disciplinary investigation. According to his employment contract he was entitled to the statutory minimum choice of representation (either a trade union representative or colleague).

But even though he was not a member of a union, nor were any of his colleagues suitable to accompany him, the claimant was still denied the option for a long-standing medical representative to accompany him to the disciplinary hearing.

Now Susan Mayall, head of employment at Pearson Solicitors, is warning employers to be wary of circumstances in which it might be required to consider giving staff the option to choose a person other than a trade union rep or colleague to accompany them.

Susan commented: “While in most cases a trade union rep or colleague will be available to accompany employees, there are situations where this is simply not possible. If so, the employer should give consideration to allowing the employee to choose a suitable alternative.

“This is even more important if the employee has consultation with any organisation that serves a similar function to a union, especially if that consultation has been permitted up to the point of the meeting.

“Careful consideration should also be given when people are suffering with physical and mental disabilities as to whether to allow a friend or relative to accompany them to sickness absence or capability meetings.”

For advice on this on and any other employment law issues, call Susan Mayall on 0161 684 6948 or email

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

    How can we help?

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.