Do I need a lawyer? The employee’s companion at a disciplinary or grievance meeting

Debbie-Haskell-150x150The rights of a worker to be accompanied by a companion of their choice, to either a disciplinary or a grievance meeting, has been clarified in the publication of an updated ACAS code of practice. This revised code reflects the decision in the case of Toal and another v GB Oils Ltd where aggrieved employee’s successfully brought a claim against their employer after being refused their choice of companion. The employer believed their request was unreasonable and that the individual selected would prejudice the meeting. It relied on the, then ACAS code which stated “however it would not normally be reasonable for workers to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the hearing….”

The Employment Appeal Tribunal did not agree with the employer’s view, stating that Parliament had clearly intended the worker to have free choice. It also decided that because the legislation was unambiguous there was no need for the employer to turn to the ACAS guide for interpretation, which they added, in any event had no authority on this occasion to interpret this entitlement – that was a matter for the courts.

The ACAS code of practice is a very useful source of guidance and to be fair, it was accepted good practice previously that only reasonable requests be permitted. The new ACAS code explains:

The employer must agree to the workers request and choice of companion provided that they are from one of the three categories given in the legislation.
• A worker can change their companion if they wish.
• The workers request does not have to be in writing.
• The workers request should be made in sufficient time so that arrangements can be made for their chosen companion to attend. It should include sufficient detail so that the companion can be identified.

However there are some concerns that the ACAS code has not gone far enough. In the Toal case the Employment Tribunal made it clear that:
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The Importance of being Earnest … how safe is your identity?

Sarah-Varani-150x150CIFAS – the UK’s Fraud Prevention service recently published the annual Fraudscape report which found that if you’re a 46-year-old male living in a major city then you are more likely to become a victim of identity theft than anyone else in the country. Cities including London, Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester were found to be the country’s fraud hot spots. Recorded fraud was up 25pc last year, with 276,993 cases reported in 2014, compared to 221,075 in 2013. One in five people has lost money as a result of cyber crime, the average loss per online attack being £247 per person.

Simon Dukes, chief executive, at CIFAS, said: “The frauds we are recording point to increasingly sophisticated, predatory and organised criminals. This is crime on an industrial scale.”
Celebrities such as Beyonce, Jay-Z and Britney Spears have had their private details stolen and posted online. If it can happen to them, could it happen to you?

It’s not unheard of for criminals to pick through peoples rubbish to get their hands on any sensitive information they can. A full picture of your identity can be obtained from documents such as bank or credit card statements or the contents of your handbag or wallet. Don’t forget that this can also be pieced together from information you provide online. Criminals are hacking through weak passwords and taking advantage of consumers over the internet by creating fake links, sending phishing emails (pretending to be a genuine company you may have dealings with) and even managing to install spyware on your devices in some cases. You may also receive unsolicited calls asking for personal information by criminals posing as your bank, Microsoft etc.

If criminals do manage to get hold of details such as your full name, address, date of birth, phone number as well as credit card details or bank account numbers, they may be able to steal your identity. They could use your name to open accounts, get credit cards and loans or apply for state benefits and documents such as passports and driving licences.
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