What is the Employment Rights Act 1999?
As a member of school staff you might not be entirely knowledgeable about all the details in the Employment Rights Act (ERA) 1999.
The ERA 1999 is an Act of Parliament which outlines details on employment rights in work, the right for accompaniment for disciplinary and grievance hearings amongst other laws. It applies to employees in different sectors and not just those in schools.
What does Section 10 of the ERA cover?
The right to be accompanied to disciplinary or grievance meetings
Section 10 of the ERA 1999 creates a right for employees to be accompanied to disciplinary or grievance meetings by a companion of their choice provided that the chosen companion is a member of one of the following categories:
- A paid official of a trade union;
- An unpaid official of a trade union who is certified as competent to act as a companion; or
- Another of the employer’s workers.
Currently only allowed to be accompanied by a trade union official or colleague
So currently the law only requires employers, including schools, to allow staff to be joined by a union representative or colleague at grievance and disciplinary meetings.
Employees can also be accompanied by a colleague from the same workplace, although this is not always beneficial to the process, and some colleagues may be reluctant to provide such support.
As an Edapt subscriber, might I be refused accompaniment at a grievance or disciplinary meeting?
Joining a union is a choice, but this choice should not affect your employment law rights.
Edapt, as a professional edu-legal support body, has supported teachers across England and Wales in a full range of employment issues since 2012. Whilst our caseworkers don’t strictly fall under the relevant subsections of the ERA 1999, employers, in particular schools, are generally very pragmatic and understand that allowing appropriate accompaniment is better for both parties.
However, there has been a very small number of occasions where we have been refused accompaniment. Even though it is extremely rare for this to happen, ideally this should not be occurring and the right to accompaniment should be extended to ensure that any employee is able to be accompanied by someone trained and experienced in providing accompaniment in disciplinary and grievance hearings.
Ultimately a school (or any employer) denying an employee a reasonable request for accompaniment could be detrimental in the long run for both parties.
Employment Rights Act 1999:What are the proposed changes?
A bill to allow teachers who are not members of trade unions to seek broader representation in legal hearings passed the first reading stage in the House of Commons in March 2021.
The bill was introduced by former headteacher and MP for Bassetlaw Brendan Clarke-Smith.
Mr Clarke-Smith said: “This bill is about levelling up the teaching profession. It is about strengthening the role of teachers. It is about promotion of equal rights in the workplace and it is about closing a gap in the law. It is a pro-worker move that costs nothing and hurts no-one.”
Essentially what it could mean is that accompaniment to disciplinary or grievance hearings will be able to be extended outside of current trade union officials or work colleagues.
It’s widely accepted that having someone trained and experienced in providing accompaniment at disciplinary and grievance hearings is beneficial to both parties.
Do I need to do anything as a current Edapt subscriber?
There is no action you need to take and you should be assured that in the vast majority of instances we are not refused accompaniment.
Where can I read more information about this topic?
- Every employee should have the same rights at work-regardless of trade union membership
- Unions under fire for ‘monopoly’ on teachers’ rights
- Bill to end union ‘closed shop’ clears first hurdle