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This question relates to UK employment. It is not about me (I'm self employed) but it does relate to someone who is known to me.

This person has been summoned to a meeting with their manager and HR because of irregularities in a couple of expenses claims. It boils down to their being no guidance on how to submit expenses and log expenditure on a company credit card either written or verbal, despite asking. The amount in question comes to no more than about £120 (give or take) and there is no question that this person admits they have made a genuine mistake and is perfectly happy to immediately repay all monies that were paid to them in error. It should also be noted that the errors were made several months ago yet no one in the finance department noticed and nor did the line manager. At best guess this is simply the employers protocol when there is a question surrounding money, and therefore these hoops must be jumped through despite the time and money they will take.

However, the person's manager is a bit of a nightmare. There have been numerous examples of their inability to actually manage and a tendency to act in a dictatorial manner. These people are all in their 40's and above, although that should make no difference. The manager has been insisting that this meeting take place as soon as possible and was pushing for next Monday (it is Thursday now), and the subject of this meeting would have been happy to do that, but they are allowed to have someone accompany them into the meeting, not as representation per se, but for support and as a witness I suppose. Unfortunately the people the subject would choose are unavailable on that day, and in fact the earliest day any of them can make is the Wednesday. Despite this the manager is almost on the point of insisting the meeting take place Monday, leaving the subject with no one to accompany them - something they are very uncomfortable about and I am inclined to agree since this manager has all but managed out someone in the team already (personally I thought there was at least a prima facie case for constructive dismissal but the person did not want to pursue that, and besides I'm no employment lawyer so I could be wrong).

I would have been more than happy to accompany the subject in this meeting but apparently it must be another employee, and I am not employed by the organisation.

I have two questions relating to this:

1) Is the organisation within their legal rights to insist that only another employee may accompany the subject into the meeting?

2) Can they force the subject to have this meeting when no one that they want to take into the meeting is available?

I wasn't sure if here or law.stackexchange.com might be more appropriate but figured that it made slightly more sense here. I'm happy to move the question if the community feels it would be better elsewhere.

EDIT:

I should add that the subject is home-based and therefore is not in the office very often so has limited interaction with people outside their direct team and one other which they work with.

  • Has it been asked to hold off till someone can accompany them? No harm in asking, usually. – jumper Jul 13 '17 at 15:53
  • Yes, the question has been asked because, as you say, no harm in it, but the manager is still pushing for a day when no one is available to accompany. Doesn't help that the subject doesn't like to make a fuss, and I suspect the manager plays on this somewhat. – Steve Pettifer Jul 13 '17 at 15:55
  • To me it sounds like the company/manager has gone looking for a reason to get rid of this person and they found this expenses mix-up and are using it for their own agenda. The whole thing sounds like a setup. – user1450877 Jul 13 '17 at 16:21
  • That's the worry of the subject - the amount of money is so small, relatively, and the notion that it could be an attempt at fraud so laughable (it would be the dumbest and most obvious attempt ever and for a stupidly small amount) that they are starting to worry about it being a hatchet job. – Steve Pettifer Jul 13 '17 at 16:30
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    These may be good questions, but any time where the question being asked is directly related to or similar to "Is it legal..." , the question is best asked on law.stackexchange, as that site is dedicated to asking and answering questions related to specific legal statutes. – schizoid04 Jul 13 '17 at 16:47
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Given that this sounds like a Disciplinary hearing the advice on the UK Government website seems applicable. This website shows your statuary rights as an employee (if this is a disciplinary matter)

1) Who can be your companion

Your companion can be either:

a colleague

a trade union representative

a trade union official

If a colleague can’t go with you and you’re not in the union you can ask to bring a family member or a Citizens Advice Bureau worker. However, your employer doesn’t have to agree to this unless your employment contract says they must.

2) Availability of companion. The ACAS code of practice also gives some useful advice here for employers

  1. If a worker’s chosen companion will not be available at the time proposed for the hearing by the employer, the employer must postpone the hearing to a time proposed by the worker provided that the alternative time is both reasonable and not more than five working days after the date originally proposed.
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    That is very interesting info - I'd forgotten about ACAS, I should have had a look there so thank you for that. I'm a bit surprised that a family member can attend but I suspect they are reasonable enough that they will agree to it. I don't think they are framing it as a disciplinary matter, more as a formal meeting to investigate, but it sure has the whiff of disciplinary. Thank you again, most helpful. – Steve Pettifer Jul 13 '17 at 16:44
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1) Is the organisation within their legal rights to insist that only another employee may accompany the subject into the meeting?

I can't speak to the legality on this, but normally if it's private property then the company is allowed to deny anyone access. Which could mean that only someone else in the organization would be allowed into that meeting. Also, since it deals with a credit card, it could be privacy related to the company.

2) Can they force the subject to have this meeting when no one that they want to take into the meeting is available?

They can't really even force the subject to even go to the meeting, but since it's a money and HR issue, I don't see why they couldn't just have the meeting. (I get the comfortable and witness thing, but that's why HR is involved.) HR is generally there for this kind of thing where the employee feels they can't trust their manager or other problems. They could always ask for another manager there for perspective, or even another HR person for a witness to make sure things don't get out of hand. Since it was an honest mistake, HR should be really nice about it and keep the peace.

  • This has largely been my take on it. Unfortunately the only other manager the subject knows is their line manager's manager and of course they will be part of the reporting chain so they had to recuse themselves from accompanying. I do feel that this is just a genuine protocol thing for HR to be involved (and of course finance since it is money related) and that there is nothing to worry about, but the reputation of this particular line manager is such that none of their staff trusts them one iota and they have given ample reason for that mistrust. – Steve Pettifer Jul 13 '17 at 16:29

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