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What is reasonable adjustments during disciplinary process?

James Potts, Director of Legal Services - Peninsula

There’s been a lot in the news recently about companies not going about their disciplinary and dismissal processes in the right way – yes, we’re looking at you, P&O Ferries…

We’re also hearing reports of companies falling short when it comes to fair treatment of disabled employees, with the recent revelation that disabled workers are being paid on average £2 less than their non-disabled colleagues.

But what happens when these two issues intersect?

James Potts, Director of Legal Services at Peninsula, says: “It’s imperative that employees get the disciplinary process right, and that staff are not subjected to a detriment at any point.

“Any employee who is going through the disciplinary procedure has the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or an official of a trade union.

“If an employee wants to bring anyone who falls outside of those two categories, the employer does have the ability to refuse, but they must be reasonable in their decision.

“For example, it would be acceptable to refuse to meet an employee who insists on bringing a clown to accompany them. And no, I’m not joking here – this really happened in New Zealand!

“Back to more reasonable requests, a young worker might wish to bring their parent or guardian. Or an individual with health concerns may wish to bring their partner, relative or advocate. In these scenarios it would be reasonable for the employer to allow this.

“To blanket-refuse an accompanying person puts the fairness of the disciplinary or grievance process at risk. For some people, for example those with disabilities, having someone accompany them to these meetings could be classed as a reasonable adjustment, so failing to allow it might also risk discrimination claims.

“Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to consider reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities throughout the employment process, including hiring and firing. This might include having someone to transcribe notes, explain the process thoroughly, translate into sign language, a support worker, or someone else who has knowledge of the person’s disability and its effects.

“It should go without saying that whoever is chosen to accompany an employee to their disciplinary hearing must act professionally and as means of support, rather than a distraction – despite how impressive their balloon animals might be…”

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