Vince Cable has today requested a full consultation into the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures and this consultation is very much welcomed by Edapt.

It is fundamental that all employees are treated equally under any disciplinary, grievance or legal process. 74% of people, in the UK, are not union members, and under current legislation and ACAS guidance, are not entitled to qualified accompaniment when under a disciplinary or grievance process with their employer.

Edapt, as a professional edu-legal support body, has supported teachers across England and Wales in a full range of employment issues for over two years. During that period, despite not being a trade union, we have never been refused accompaniment of one of our subscribers at a disciplinary or grievance hearing.

This not only show that schools and employers acknowledge that professional and qualified accompaniment of employees, like that provided by Edapt, is beneficial to both parties, but also how outdated the ACAS code of practice has become with regard to the right to accompaniment. Similarly, it shows how poorly drafted the Employment Relations Act 1999 (ERA 1999) is for those employees, like Edapt subscribers, who choose not to join a union.

Under the current code and legislation, union members are entitled to be accompanied by a person employed by a trade union or an official of a trade union. This broad definition encompasses a full range of possible companions, from volunteer trade union reps through to trade union lawyers, provided the trade union employs them.

However, those employees who are not union members are only statutorily entitled to accompaniment from a colleague from the same workplace. Not only are colleagues generally not qualified to provide such support, they may not feel comfortable, or may feel conflicted in taking part in the process, and without support from an organisation such as Edapt, many employees will end up unsupported during such procedures.

Teachers, and indeed any employees, have the right to choose whether or not to join a trade union, and we feel that the ACAS Code and the Employment Relations Act 1999 is currently discriminatory to non-union members by not statutorily allowing qualified accompaniment to them.

It is of paramount importance that this new consultation fully appreciates the right of all workers to be entitled to qualified accompaniment in disciplinary and grievance procedures, regardless of whether they are a trade union member or not, and ACAS should also recommend that the law be changed to reflect this progress in employment relations.

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