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Guide to workplace representatives

Last reviewed on 06 February 2018

If you’re invited to attend a formal meeting under any of our policies and processes, such as disciplinary, absence, performance as well when we are consulting with you over changes, you can be accompanied by a trade union representative or colleague – we call these “workplace representatives”. This guide provides some information about workplace representatives and you should read it along with the policy on the type of meeting being held.

Crucial bits

Right to be accompanied

You have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or colleague at any formal meeting being held to talk about a workplace matter - such as:

  • any meeting which could result in you being issued with a formal warning, like a disciplinary meeting
  • an absence review meeting
  • a meeting dealing with a formal grievance
  • a meeting to discuss a formal flexible working request
  • a performance improvement review meeting
  • a probationary period review meeting
  • an appeal meeting

All colleagues have this right, regardless of length of service, or whether you work full-time or part-time. We’ll always remind you about this right to be accompanied in any letter we send inviting you to a formal meeting.

There’s no specific right to be accompanied at an informal meeting, such as an investigatory meeting. But if you ask and there’s a suitable person readily available, we’ll allow them to come along with you.

Colleague representatives

It’s up to you whether you choose to have a trade union rep or a colleague as your workplace representative. Just so you’re aware, the trade union rep can be from any union you’re a member of – it doesn’t need to be one we recognise for negotiating purposes. But if your manager doesn’t know them, they will ask for proof that they are a trade union official or representative.

If you’re under 18, you can also have a parent or guardian accompany you.

In some situations we may let an additional person attend the meeting to provide support – like a language translator. If you have a disability, we may agree for you to bring along a professional support worker, such as a sign language interpreter, or a friend or family member as a reasonable adjustment. So talk to your manager about your needs.

We don’t normally allow external solicitors or professional trade bodies to represent colleagues at formal meetings. If you need further guidance on this, contact ER Services.

Things to think about

Arranging a representative

It’s up to you to arrange a workplace representative if you want one – your manager or HR won’t do this for you.

If you want to be represented by your trade union, contact them and they’ll arrange an appropriate rep.

If you’d like to be represented by a colleague, then ask someone who you think might be suitable. You can ask anyone, but it might not be appropriate to ask someone who is also involved in the matter or a witness to anything. However, it’s your choice who you ask. The colleague you ask doesn’t have to say yes - and they shouldn’t feel pressurised into doing it if it’s something they’re not comfortable with.

Any colleague who acts as a workplace representative for someone won’t suffer any negative treatment for doing so. And they can take a reasonable amount of paid time off work to prepare for and go to the meeting with you.

You’ll need to let your manager know before the meeting if you want to be accompanied and give them the name of your representative.

Role of the workplace representative

Your workplace representative can help you prepare for a meeting as well as coming to the meeting with you. You should meet with them before the meeting to discuss things if they are helping you to prepare, so that the meeting can start on time. If they want to ask questions about anything in any of the documents that will be used during the meeting, they can do this either before or during the meeting.

In the meeting your representative can ask questions, put forward and sum up your views and ask for adjournments to talk things through with you. They can also take notes so that you have your own record of the meeting, as well as any notes made by the manager or designated note-taker.

But the representative can’t answer questions on your behalf, unless this has been agreed by the manager holding the meeting. And they shouldn’t say anything that you don’t want them to say or to act in a way that stops the Co-op putting forward its case.

Rescheduling the meeting

If your chosen representative isn’t available at the proposed meeting time, the manager will try to agree another time that works for everyone.

Any rescheduled meeting will usually be within a week of the original meeting time – but may be longer in exceptional circumstances. If a suitable time can’t be agreed within a reasonable time period, the meeting may go ahead and you’ll be able to ask someone else to accompany you.

Meetings at your home

If a formal meeting needs to take place at your home rather than in the workplace or another meeting venue, you can still have a workplace representative.

You can also have a family member with you for support, but they won’t be able to join in fully with the meeting, unless they’re also a trade union rep or colleague from work. At the start of the meeting, your manager will make sure everyone’s clear about their roles.

If you need further support

If you have any further questions about workplace representatives, speak to your manager. If managers need advice, they should contact ER Services.