Are employees allowed to be accompanied to investigation interviews?
Although it's not a statutory requirement to do so, there are some very good reasons why employers should allow interviewees to be accompanied to an investigation meeting into a disciplinary or grievance matter.
Some employers include such provisions contractually as part of their disciplinary and grievance policy in recognition of the value companions can add to the investigation process.
Employees may also have a contractual right to be accompanied if it would otherwise leave them unfairly disadvantaged; or as a reasonable access requirement for a disabled employee under the Equality act 2010.
Employers who don't allow employees to bring a companion should be careful that their investigation meeting doesn't become something that ends in a warning or sanction. As such, the meeting could be viewed as a formal disciplinary hearing, for which employees do have a statutory right to be accompanied.
The benefits of companions
Crucially, allowing companions helps lend credibility to an investigation, and gives staff confidence that their issues are being taken seriously and handled fairly. As a consequence it may reduce the potential for appeal against the outcome.
On a practical level, a companion can help an interviewee feel more relaxed and better composed to talk openly on the matter. Some companions are also in a good position to help an investigator manage the process more effectively by explaining to an interviewee what the steps being taken are.
This could be particularly important if English isn't the first language of the interviewee, when a companion can help outline the procedural structure and facilitate the discussion.
Who to allow
Typically, companions could be a workplace colleague, or a trade union representative or official, as is provided by statutory right at formal disciplinary or grievance hearings.
But employers might also consider allowing personal friend or family member to be the companion if it's reasonable in the circumstances.
Whoever the companion is, it's still up to the interviewee to answer the investigator's questions. That said, an interviewee should be allowed to confer with their companion before answering.
Acas publications and services
Acas has published Conducting workplace investigations [573kb], guidance that outlines the essential decisions and actions that employers must and should make when undertaking an investigation.
Free investigation plan templates, as well as investigation report templates, sample letters informing employees of an investigation or inviting employees to an investigation meeting, are available to download from the Acas Carrying out investigations in the workplace page.
Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you address a range of issues related to conducting investigations; see Disputes and mediation: how Acas can help for more information.
For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.
Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.