How can I request accompaniment at a disciplinary hearing?
During your teaching career you may be invited to attend a formal disciplinary interview, either following a period of formal investigation or due to misconduct. You should be asked if you would like someone to accompany you to the disciplinary hearing.
In this article, we outline the process of being accompanied at a hearing, who is allowed to accompany you, and what they are allowed to do during the hearing.
Who can I ask to support me during a disciplinary meeting?
There are three types of people who, by law, must be allowed to accompany you during a disciplinary meeting. These are:
- A trade union representative
- An individual appointed by a trade union
- A colleague at school
You can request any one of these options, but it is up to the school to allow a person to accompany you if they sit outside these categories.
Whilst our caseworkers don’t strictly fall under the relevant subsections of the Employment Relations Act 1999 (ERA 1999), employers, in particular schools, are generally very pragmatic and understand that allowing appropriate accompaniment is better for both parties. Under the ERA 1999 trade union members are legally entitled to be accompanied by a person employed by a trade union or an official of a trade union.
You should let your school know far enough in advance the name of the person accompanying you, where possible, and whether they are a trade union official, representative or another colleague.
These accompaniment rights are also often extended to investigatory, and other types of meetings, but such allowances will be particular to individual school policies.
How do I make a request to be accompanied?
You must inform your school if you wish to be accompanied. You do not have to do this in writing, but you should provide the details of the person and their relationship to you.
There is no requirement to bring in another person but you might find it useful to have someone else to support you during what will most likely be a stressful meeting where you might not be able to accurately recall all the facts of your case. If you do have access to qualified support, it is highly recommended that you make use of it.
When asking a colleague at school, it will be useful to ask someone you have worked closely with and you feel you can rely on, who is also not involved in the disciplinary or grievance case. Your colleague should be reassured that they will not suffer any adverse consequences for accompanying you as it is a legal requirement in all workplaces and it happens regularly in schools.
Can I change the date and time of the meeting if my companion cannot attend the meeting?
If your companion will not be available at the time proposed for the hearing, your school must postpone the hearing to a time proposed by yourself provided that the alternative time is both reasonable and not more than five working days after the date originally proposed. You may also alter your choice of companion if it will not be practical for them to attend the meeting.
What is my companion allowed to do during the hearing?
Your companion should be allowed to address the hearing to summarise your case, respond on your behalf to any views expressed at the meeting and confer with you. The person supporting you will be able to keep a close eye on proceedings to ensure compliance, and assist you in formulating responses and questions.
You companion does not, however, have the right to answer questions on your behalf, address the hearing if you do not wish them to speak or prevent the disciplinary officer from explaining their case.
What can I expect during the hearing?
Disciplinary hearings should follow a formal procedure that is clearly set out in policy documents and procedures available from your school. At the hearing, your school will set out the allegations and evidence supporting the allegation and you will set out your defence. Both parties will be able to question the statements, evidence or witnesses of each party.
It is important to be well prepared and supported both prior and at the hearing. This can be a complicated and stressful time, particularly if there are multiple allegations, and support from a well informed and experienced person can be invaluable to help your case.
To find out more details on what you can expect in a disciplinary hearing, please see another article on Edapt.
Support from Edapt
It’s widely accepted that having someone qualified with you at disciplinary and grievance hearings is beneficial to both parties and the Edapt team accompany teachers most weeks.
If you believe you have been unfairly treated either during the investigation process, or in the run up to or at the hearing itself, you may be able to take the case to an employment tribunal. It is however important that all the internal procedures, for example lodging an internal appeal, have been followed, prior to any appeal to an employment tribunal.
In addition, reaching a settlement through early conciliation can be quicker, cheaper and less stressful than a tribunal case. To find out more about the topic of early conciliation, please see another article on Edapt.
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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.