The ‘right’ to moral support

FRANCES BARKER of Blocks on the obligation of employers to allow a ‘companion’ at disciplinary or grievance hearings

IS THERE a human right to moral support?

Unfortunately, generally, no there isn’t. But there is a legal right sometimes, if you are an employee, to have someone with you to give moral support, not necessarily to take sides, but just to be there.

This right to a “companion” is when there is a disciplinary or grievance hearing. The right is to a companion who is a trade union official or a colleague. To deny this right may make the whole process unfair, and there can be a tribunal penalty of two weeks’ pay.

This is the minimum right, but the employer can agree to someone else being the companion. Unless they are likely to be problematic, for example a disruptive family member or a lawyer, then employers usually benefit from allowing a wider range of companion. Even the family member (no rolling pins allowed!) can be worth having – the “victim” is likely to relay what happens with quite a degree of bias, so it can be best to have the relative there to see things for themselves and to ask their own burning questions.

It is virtually always best for the manager/employer to be accompanied themselves, by a note taker who is of course also a witness. And if there are two on the employer side it is more a balance of power if there are two on the employee side. Employers don’t have the legal right to have their hand held, but are usually wise to do so, in what is inevitably a rather stressful experience for all.

n Blocks is holding a free seminar next month to help employers be aware of what to look out for on the employment law front.

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Sometimes, managing staff, you can be forgiven for feeling a victim, and for concluding that you are not really in control at all. Employment law keeps changing and at the same time we all need to keep our businesses under constant review.

This seminar, on Wednesday, October 5, at Wherstead Park Manor, near Ipswich, from 8.30am until 11am, is for all those who are responsible for managing employees.

We promise a low stress and enjoyable session, your time justified by a wealth of information from practical experts about the legal context in which we all have to manage.

The practice areas we will look at in more detail include: maximising staff flexibility; maximising staff efficiency; managing change; dealing with problem staff; and managing the internet revolution.

Legal updates will include the Bribery Act; the Equality Act; age without retirement; corporate manslaughter; and agency workers

n The above is general comment only. For specific advice on any employment law matter contact Frances Barker, employment partner at Blocks Solicitors on 01473 343911 or email .