The right to be accompanied: unfettered?

June 2017

By Lucy Bloom of Osborne & Wise

In Gnahoua v Abellio London Ltd, the Employment Tribunal awarded a compensation payment of £2 for an employer’s failure to allow an employee to bring their chosen companion to a disciplinary meeting.  The employer had a general policy of refusing two brothers to accompany employees to disciplinary meetings due to their previous unreasonable conduct. The Employment Tribunal held that whilst strictly speaking the employee had an unfettered right to be accompanied by the companion of his choice (i.e. an employed trade union official, a certified trade union official or a work colleague), he had not suffered any loss or detriment.  

The useful point to take away from this case is that an employer has the ability to refuse an employee’s choice of companion, provided that it has sound commercial reasons for doing so. If the employer can demonstrate that (a) it has conducted a fair and reasonable disciplinary/grievance process; and (b) the employee has not suffered any loss or detriment; then it might be reasonable for an employer to refuse a requested companion.